Taoiseach to prioritise job creation strategies in coming year
Enda Kenny: "it is clear that Ireland is now heading in the right direction"
Taoiseach Enda Kenny has pledged that the Government will do more in the year ahead to get people back to work and will introduce further reform of the welfare system as part of that process.
Writing in today’s Irish Times to mark the Coalition’s first two years in office, he acknowledged that far too many people could not find work or have had to emigrate.
“The economic recovery cannot be allowed to bypass those families most hurt by the collapse,” he said.
The EU-IMF troika has been critical of the pace at which labour activation measures, to provide incentives for people to get off welfare and into jobs or training, have been implemented by the Government.
Although there has been a small increase in the numbers at work recently, the rate of unemployment – at just over 14 per cent this month – remains one of the highest in Europe.
Mr Kenny said a number of priorities stood out. “We will do more to help people back to work, including through further reforms to the welfare system to activate jobless households and by establishing NewERA and the Strategic Investment Fund on a statutory basis to invest €6 billion in strategic sectors.”
Mr Kenny said Fine Gael and the Labour Party had been given a clear mandate by the Irish people two years ago to take the necessary decisions to achieve economic recovery and to get Ireland working again.
“While I acknowledge that we still have a long way to go it is clear that Ireland is now heading in the right direction and there is light at the end of this tunnel.”
He said the Government was working closely with the banks and the financial regulator to deal with the mortgage crisis. It has been estimated that around 100,000 people have problems paying their mortgages.
The Taoiseach also defended the introduction of a local property tax which will come in to effect later this year. The tax has been criticised as an additional burden on people who have already seen pay reduced through increased taxes and other levies.
“This is a fair and jobs-friendly way to raise revenues needed to close the Government deficit because, unlike income tax, it does not penalise work and effort.”
Mr Kenny said that despite necessary budget cuts, key services, including the health service, had been protected by improving productivity, cutting costs and squeezing out waste.
“Approval of the new public service agreement by union members will be an important step in achieving this objective,” he added.
Meanwhile, Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar said yesterday that unions that had walked out of the pay talks got a worse deal for their members than those who stayed in.
He said teachers’ unions got an important concession relating to the equalisation of salary scales between young teachers and those already in employment. “The nurses didn’t stay in the talks and they got nothing,” he said.
The Minister also said prison officers and the Defence Forces obtained better terms than gardaí who boycotted the talks.
His comments came as new details emerged about the “sweeteners” available to unions whose leaders agreed the terms of the extension to the Croke Park Agreement.