Ireland has been 'to hell and back' - Eamon Gilmore
Tánaiste tells Labour conference 2014 is most important year since crisis began
Ireland is emerging from a period when “our country and our people have been to hell and back”, Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore has told the Labour Party conference tonight.
Mr Gilmore said the choices made in 2014, a local and European elections year, will “shape our future, this year, next year and for years to come”.
It will be the most important year since the crisis began, he claimed.
“The Troika is gone, so the choices that we now make are our choices - about the future that we want to build, working together,” Mr Gilmore told his party’s gathering in Enfield, Co Meath.
“We can stick to the task of building recovery and creating jobs and work, or we can put that all at risk. By indulging in fairytale economics.”
He also said Labour in Government had prevented tougher cuts being made, even if the party had “taken political risks with the choices we have made”.
Labour had made sure a “threshold of decency” was maintained, and will continue to do so to “make sure nobody is left behind”.
“The story of the past three years is a story of hard decisions taken, but it is also a story of roads not travelled. Of the cuts that could have been made, but were avoided. Of the jobs that could have been lost, but were saved. Of the homes that might have been lost, but were protected.
“As a party we have taken political risks with the choices we have made, but we will never regret putting the needs of the next generation ahead of the demands of the next opinion poll. You can’t clean up a mess without getting your hands dirty. And having taken the risks, we will not now put the recovery at risk.”
While he said “there is a long way to travel”, Mr Gilmore added: “But, if we stick to the task, if we are clear about our destination, then there is hope again.”
The Government must now move from “improving bond yields to improving living standards”.
“We can build a recovery that is genuinely felt in the lives of all our people, or we can stand back and watch the gains being reaped by a select few.
“We have the choice, of going back to the bad old days, when Ireland was run by a different Troika – a Troika of bankers, developers and Fianna Fáil – or we can work together to build a better, fairer, more prosperous and tolerant Ireland.”
He said too many people are still struggling, and promised the Government will kick start the construction sector to build homes and create jobs.
“We will continue the work of rebuilding our reputation and attracting investment. We will work to achieve recovery in the domestic economy, especially in the construction sector. There are parts of Ireland where we need more new homes, and at affordable prices, and we have the building workers who can build them.
Mr Gilmore said Labour’s values are “openness, tolerance, fairness and freedom” and said its councillors and local election candidates will work to protect local services, and the “public space that we all share”.
He said Labour will campaign for gay marriage and win next year’s referendum.
And he warned against a lurch to the right at European level, both against the “conservative consensus” and elements of the extreme right.
Labour and its social democratic sister parties in the European Parliament would help stave off the extreme right, he said.
Mr Gilmore also said his thoughts were with the telecom worker who died working to fix storm damage, and for families and businesses affected by the recent extreme weather.