Taoiseach pledges to restore public confidence in gardaí
Kenny addresses GSOC controversy and economy in keynote speech at Fine Gael ard fheis
The Taoiseach Enda Kenny at the Fine Gael Ard Fheis, at the RDS Ballsbridge, today. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times
Taoiseach Enda Kenny has pledged to restore confidence in the State’s security system following recent controversies involving the gardaí and the Ombudsman Commission.
In his keynote speech to the Fine Gael ard fheis at the RDS in Dublin last night, he said that the well-being of the Irish people depended on justice and security within the State.
“You all know of the recent events regarding An Garda Síochána and the Garda Ombudsman Commission. “Public confidence in our justice system is critical. In recent weeks, a number of developments have served to weaken that confidence both in our police force, and the body tasked to oversee it,” he said.
Mr Kenny said that Fine Gael in Government would not allow these important institutions to be undermined in the eyes of the Irish people. “Our only interest is the public interest and the truth. That means having a Garda force that commands the respect of the public.
“That means having an Ombudsman Commission with the right structures to provide effective and independent oversight,” he said. Mr Kenny added that the Government had taken a number of important decisions to restore public confidence in both institutions.
“I believe these actions to be both appropriate and responsible. Any further action that is recommended will be taken. The safety and security of our people are paramount.
“Anyone who has tried to play politics with these issues should hang their heads in shame,” he said. On the economy he promised that the unemployment rate would be down below the EU average by the end of this year. He said the end of the EU bailout was not an end in itself but a platform for economic recovery.
“What are the next steps? Well, we had a clear plan to stabilise the economy and exit the bailout. Now, we have a clear plan to rebuild our economy after the bailout - to keep up that momentum.” He said the Government had a clear plan to use our economic freedom to create a strong a sustainable economy for the future.
“This is a plan based on enterprise, not on speculation. I want you to know we are never going back to the culture that almost destroyed our country. That is why, we will now implement our strategy for growth with the same focus and determination as we did to exit the bailout programme.”
He said that at the heart of the pan was the creation of jobs and the latest official figures published during the week had confirmed that over 60,000 net new jobs were created last year year.
“That’s a solid start, but now we must do more. Unemployment is falling, but it’s still far too high. Too many are leaving the country, and the families they love to find work. “I can confirm to you this evening that we are on track to get the unemployment rate down to below the Eurozone average before the end of this year, and to below 10 per cent by 2016.”
Mr Kenny said that was why the Government had designated 2014 as a year of relentless focus on job creation. “That’s why the main target of our economic plan is to add 100,000 full-time jobs to the economy in the lifetime of this Government, and, by 2020, to replace all of the 330,000 jobs lost during the economic crisis. This will bring the unemployment rate to below 6 per cent.”
He said that as more jobs were created it was important to ensure that they were taken up by unemployed people. “We have to make sure that a man or woman without a job knows that they’ll be better off financially in work. Too often, it does not make financial sense for families to take up work because they will lose all of their welfare benefits.”
He said one such welfare trap was the Rent Supplement Payment which people lose if they are no longer unemployed.
“This year, we will implement the biggest reform in housing supports in a generation. By replacing the rent supplement with a new Housing Assistance Payment, we will ensure that 34,000 families will be better off in work.”