This crisis will pass - Ireland will rise again

 

LEADER'S SPEECH:This is an edited version of the Taoiseach’s speech to the ardfheis:

GOOD EVENING delegates, and to all of you watching and listening at home.

I realise tonight as I talk to you that many of you here in this hall and around the country have worries for yourselves, your families and your future.

We are living in uncertain times and people are concerned about their jobs, their businesses and their homes.

Right across the globe there are people in the same situation.

The world has changed.

We are in a new era, never faced by anybody of our generation before. This is the worst financial crisis to hit the world since 1929.

The choices we make now as a society will have a profound affect on our country, and the generations of Irish people to come.

At our last ardfheis two years ago, we were all looking at a future full of hope. Now that hope has been overshadowed by doubt.

I first entered Dáil Éireann 25 years ago. In that time, I have been privileged to witness the transformation of our country. I have seen us achieve full employment, become a modern and confident Republic, and resolve the conflict in the North. We have all seen great days together.

Now as Taoiseach, I am tasked with guiding this nation through one of the biggest challenges of her history.

It is the greatest honour of my life to lead this Republic, but like you, I wish these were better days. There are two key challenges facing us now.

First, how do we cope with the short-term crisis we are in? And the second is how do we plan for the best possible future for our country.

My Government and I are determined to get this country back on track.

Banks

If any market economy is to function properly, and if enterprise is to prosper, we need a fully functioning banking system that works.

People need mortgages, business needs credit, and cash must flow again.

There is huge anger and disgust out there at the way some of our bankers behaved. What they did was wrong, it was selfish and it caused a lot of pain and hardship to Irish people. They will not be forgiven easily.

There is little return however, in wasting anger slamming the banks. The Fraud Squad and the Director of Corporate Enforcement will look after that. They have my full support.

What we need to do now is fix the damage they have caused.

In the weeks ahead, I will introduce new standards of banking regulation and new standards of corporate governance, which will restore our reputation and move us to the forefront of best international practice.

Central Banking Commission

I will create a new central banking commission. This will incorporate both the responsibilities of the Central Bank and the supervision and regulatory functions of the Financial Regulator.

This will build on best international practice similar to the Canadian model.

And it will provide a seamless powerful organization with independent responsibility.

It will have new powers for ensuring the financial health, stability and supervision of the banking and financial sector.

Within the new Central Banking Commission, we will appoint a new Head of Banking Regulation with an international reputation.

We will create a Financial Services Consumer Agency by merging the existing consumer directorate of the Financial Regulator and the Office of the Financial Services Ombudsman.

There will be radical reform of the system and methods of financial supervision and regulation.

There will be caps on salaries of bank chief executives receiving government aid.

This initiative will mark an end to a sorry chapter in Irish banking history.

Public Finance

The second step in our recovery is to sort out our public finances.

I want to make sure tonight that people realize the scale of the challenge we are facing.

This year we budgeted for €55 billion in spending. The maximum amount we expect to raise from taxes is €37 billion.

This leaves a gap of €18 billion in the day to day costs of running our country.

We must close this gap.

We have decided to do this over the next five years and we have submitted our targets and proposals for this to the European Commission. And they have accepted them. But now we must achieve those targets.

And the only way to do this is through an appropriate combination of cutting spending and raising taxes.

Public Spending

The fact is, we are now spending too much on the day to day running of the country.

During the good times we could afford it, during the bad times we just can’t. It’s as simple as that.

When we as a Government, ask you the people for taxes, I am aware that you deserve efficiency and best value for money.

So our first priority in this effort, is to get the best possible return for the money that you the taxpayer already provide.

Tax

But having done that, and having achieved the maximum savings possible from the public purse, the scale of the deficit means, that we also have to raise taxes to close the gap.

Our tax system needs to change.

During the good times, we developed a fairer and more progressive tax system that allowed people to keep more of their own money. Everyone had a better standard of living.

That tax model was based on continuing growth. It works best when we have high employment and a thriving economy.

Unfortunately, we are not a thriving economy for now, and we need to adapt our tax system to fit our new circumstances. Everyone will need to pay more.

Through this combination of higher taxes and increased cuts in spending we will restore balance to our public finances by 2013.

Jobs

There is a more human face to this recession. Every week now we are hearing of more people becoming unemployed. They mount up, and they become statistics. A thousand here, hundreds there.

But they are not mere statistics. There are people and families behind each and every one of those jobs.

So, while I know that more jobs will go, we are going to do everything to hold on to as many as we can.

That is why, at our next Cabinet meeting we will set up an Enterprise Stabilisation Fund with initial funding of €100 million to be run by Enterprise Ireland. The aim of the fund is to support viable but vulnerable exporting companies who, but for this recession, would be thriving.

Competitiveness

The key to Ireland’s survival is to be able to compete in export markets, with goods and services that people want, at an affordable price. That is how we have generated our national wealth, and that ultimately, is how we maintain our jobs.

So we have to reduce our costs, especially our energy costs, if we are to continue to win back the investment and the customers we need to recover.

Unemployed

As I mentioned earlier, losing a job is a big blow to workers and their families.

My Government is committed to doing all we can for people who find themselves out of work. We will:

Create more than 50,000 extra training places for newly unemployed people;

Help graduates get work through job placement schemes;

Offer “back to education” courses to those who need them.

All options are being looked at.

The measures we are taking to restore our economy will be painful for all.

Living standards will fall across the country, and we will need to adjust.

Services will suffer in the short term, and we will need to be patient.

But if we want to get back on track, if we want to get our country moving again, we have to do the right things now, regardless of the short-term political consequences.

Ireland Will Rise Again

So yes, the next three years will be tough. But this time will pass.

Confidence will return. The world will recover. And Ireland will rise again.

All the success we achieved in the past decades has not been ours alone. We have received help from friends around the world in our progress.

Our good relationship with a renewed United States continues, and I look forward to meeting President Obama in March to celebrate that relationship.

Europe has been a good and constant friend to Ireland and I hope we can strengthen our relationship when we vote again on Lisbon.

Ireland is vital to Europe and Europe is vital to Ireland.

I now hope we have the courage

to take our place at the heart of this larger, more vibrant

Europe, and help shape its future as a confident and essential partner.

And I want to say this, we could never have contended with this financial crisis if we were not a member of the eurozone, and if we did not have the support of the European Central Bank.

The Values That Make Us Unique

When John F Kennedy visited Ireland many years ago, he spoke some words in our Dáil that still ring true today. He said: “It is that quality of the Irish, the remarkable quality of hope, confidence and imagination, that is needed more than ever today.”

I believe that being Irish holds a distinct and intrinsic value. Ireland is a brand. People know us.

Our country, her landscape and her culture are known the world over. We must connect with that brand now and use it to give us the competitive advantage in a globalised world that is increasingly the same. We must ourselves portray the positives that others see in us.

Pulling Together

I want to see an Ireland that backs herself. Sometimes we are too quick to condemn and criticise in this country. There are cynics who will always say we can’t do it, that there is no hope. Well, the Irish people don’t need that now. It’s a time for pulling together.

I want to see a society that benefits all of us on this island, irrespective of class, colour or creed.

Rural, urban, foreign or native, private or public.

Meitheal

This Government is determined to manage our way through this recession and to prepare for growth again. But Government alone cannot make it happen.

Tá focal Gaeilge a theastaíonn a thabhairt isteach sa gcomhra seo anocht. Agus an focal sin ná meitheal. Daoine ag obair le chéile ar son a chéile. Teastaíonn spiorad an Mheitheal anois níos mó ná riamh. Spiorad an chomharsanacht, spiorad an chomhoibriú. Ni neart go cur le chéile a chairde agus seo í­ an t-am chun brú ar aghaidh I teannta a chéile agus le tacaíocht dá chéile.

Ireland now needs a Meitheal mentality if we are going to get through this together.

We must do this or we will let ourselves down. All of us.

All of my career as a politician, I have aspired to be true to that basic tenet of our republican philosophy. And as your Taoiseach, I will always seek to live up to it.

I am aware of the history of the office I hold. And what those who held it before me endured and achieved. I know the challenges I face.

But I am so empowered by the respect I have for this country, her flag, and you her people that I will do everything I can to manage us through this crisis. There is a future to be fought for and I will lead that fight.

Tagaigí­ liom a chairde.