Kenny urges referendum Yes vote

 

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has urged a Yes vote in the European fiscal treaty referendum and appointed Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney as Fine Gael’s national director for the referendum on March 31st.

Describing the referendum’s contents as “good housekeeping rules”, he told the party ardfheis that by committing to them “we will also ensure that no future government will behave recklessly with the people’s money and the people’s futures”.

In his opening address to the ardfheis at the National Convention Centre, Mr Kenny also urged people who had not done so to register for the household charge by the deadline of midnight tomorrow night.

“I know that new taxes are never popular. The Household Charge is no exception. But it is needed to fund essential local services,” he said in his opening address to the Fine Gael ardfheis.

“To close the gap in our public finances, we must instead broaden the tax base to include a property based charge because this is less harmful than taxes on work and investment.”

About 20 protesters gathered outside the venue protesting against cuts to disadvantaged Deis schools and against payments to bondholders. One placard read “Ballyhea says no!” The north Cork group was protesting against payments to bondholders.

A larger anti-household charge demonstration is expected outside the high-security event tomorrow.

Between 4,000 and 5,000 delegates are expected to attend the ardfheis over the weekend. Mr Kenny told those gathered at the Nama-controlled convention centre the issue at stake in the referendum was straightforward: "Will we do what is needed to keep getting jobs back and get Ireland working?"

The Taoiseach said political and business leaders during his visits to the United States and China had a consistent message that “they see Ireland’s place as a fully committed member of the euro zone as a crucial element of Ireland’s attractiveness as a location for investment”.

He said the country “will have a serious national discussion” about the referendum. “The issue at stake is straightforward," the Taoiseach told delegates, adding he was “confident our people will reject the idea that we can stand outside of Europe” or “put our recovery funds at risk”.

The referendum was a “vital and unique opportunity to send out a powerful signal around the globe that Ireland believes in the future of Europe, and of the Euro currency”.

Highlighting Fine Gael’s successes he said the party had achieved the goal of becoming the largest party in the Dáil. “We have made a solid start but we have a long way to go.”

Follow coverage of the ardfheis online tomorrow:

Live Blog: Harry McGee and Mary Minihan provide up-to-the-minute reports

Video: Interviews with party members and a vox pop with delegates

Live Stream: Watch Enda Kenny’s speech

Read: Indepth news reports and analysis