Kenny appeals for Yes to same sex marriage

“It’s about your right to say two small words ... I Do,” Taoiseach says

Harry McGee reports from the Fine Gael Ardfheis in the Taoiseach's home town of Castlebar, Co Mayo where the mood was buoyant as the party faithful were encouraged to gear up for election. Video: Bryan O'Brien

 

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has appealed to the Irish electorate to vote Yes to same sex marriage to send a powerful signal about the nature of Irish society as we approach the centenary of the 1916 Rising.

In his keynote address to the Fine Gael national conference in Castlebar he said that when the people of Ireland vote in the referendum in May the issue will be whether the State will allow same sex couples the right to civil marriage.

“As we approach the centenary of the Rising, a Yes vote would, I believe, send out a powerful signal internationally that Ireland has evolved into a fair, compassionate and tolerant nation.

“I believe that this is the right thing to do. I, and the Fine Gael Party strongly support a Yes vote. And therefore I say to all same sex couples in our country: This is about you, it’s about your right to say two small words, made up of three simple letters – I DO.

“For you, in your lives together, may they become your letters of freedom,” said Mr Kenny.

He said that after years of recession, the Irish economy was now growing again and at a faster rate than most other European countries.

“Having been regarded by Europe as a problem, Ireland’s place as a vital and valued member of the European Union has been fully restored.

“Others now look to us when they want to see a people, with sleeves rolled up, meeting a challenge head on, and meeting it successfully.”

Mr Kenny said he wanted to give people two firm commitments.

“First. The era of new taxes and charges is over. The 2015 Budget was the first in seven years to give people a modest increase in their take-home pay.

“My commitment to you tonight is that tax cuts to reward hard work and enterprise will continue in the next budget and in future budgets – if the people return Fine Gael to office.

“Second. We are never going back. My commitment as your Taoiseach and as leader of this party is that Ireland must never go back to the culture and practices of speculation, lack of oversight, wanton waste of public money and blatant disregard to our international reputation.”

He said the central target was to return the country to full employment by 2018 so that everybody who wanted a job could get a job.

“We must ensure that work pays because we believe that work, not welfare, is the route out of poverty.”

Mr Kenny said that during the last four years the Government had faced up to a number of issues that had been ignored for decades, the victims of child abuse; the survivors of the Magdalene laundries, and the protection of life during pregnancy.

“The work of the Commission of Investigation into the Mother and Baby Homes will begin shortly and I hope that this too will bring some measure of closure for the women involved.”

He said that next year on the anniversary of the Rising one milestone of real meaning to many thousands of families throughout the country would be to stem the tide of emigration of our young people.

“I believe, that after seven years of emigration, 2016 will be the year when the number of our people coming home, will be greater than the numbers who leave.

“I also believe that 2016 will also be a time to think about Ireland’s future – and the kind of future we want to build.”

Mr Kenny said the future could not be taken for granted as the recovery was fragile and incomplete.

He said that for the next year the Fine Gael and the Labour Party Coalition would continue to work day and night to secure the recovery and in 2016 the people would judge whether they had fulfilled their mandate.

“They will have a clear choice: between stable and coherent government; or chaos and instability.

“A clear choice between moving forward; or risking the country’s progress to those who wrecked it in the past, or to those whose policies would wreck our future.

“I don’t want Ireland dragged back to the failures of the past. Or for the country’s progress to be ruined by those who are intent on blowing a huge hole in our recovering national finances.

“Populist promises to reverse every tough decision are nothing but empty rhetoric, irresponsible leadership and bad politics. They are not the solution to Ireland’s problems.”