Party who declared this republic is the one to lead it


OPINION:ON THIS day 60 years ago, a Fine Gael taoiseach, John A Costello, declared Ireland a republic.

The declaration was an emphatic vindication of Michael Collins’s claim that the 1921 Treaty gave Ireland not its ultimate freedom, “but the freedom to achieve it”.

Sixty years after this major event it is a matter of regret that the Fianna Fáil Government has no plans to commemorate it. We have seen previous narrow interpretations of our history from Fianna Fáil and it belittles them and our past.

Today, however, we must ask ourselves one simple question: what kind of republic did Ireland become after this declaration made while on a State visit to Canada? Ireland in the 1950s and the 1960s became a republic of low growth and low ambition; a republic whose chief export was its own citizens.

After a Fianna Fáil-inspired boom-and-bust cycle through the 1970s and 1980s, successive governments got our economy on track. In doing so they started to deliver on the aspirations of our people. Three score years after Costello’s declaration, however, and our republic is in very serious trouble. Unemployment is heading towards 500,000; our economy will contract by at least 7 per cent this year, and a savage Budget has added €4,000 to the tax bill of an average family. Small and medium-sized businesses are struggling to survive, as we all pay a huge price for the Government’s bubble economy. Disastrously, the Government thinks it can tax our economy back to recovery.

Thousands of young people, crippled by negative equity and burdened by ever increasing tax hikes, are starting to leave our shores. Where is the sense of hope for these people? Who is speaking up for those paying the price for the mistakes of others? No one in Government is. We’re in this current mess not because Fianna Fáil’s policies failed, but because they succeeded.

I believe that the party that founded the State and declared a republic is the party to lead our country to its next stage of development. That party is Fine Gael. The idea of the republic is one that fills me with a sense of responsibility and hope. The idea that the State belongs to no one, because it belongs to everyone, is key. That message has been lost as the Government has ruled for the few and ignored the many.

Today, more than ever, we need a reinvigorated republic. Ireland needs a government that is on the side of the people; a government that will make the tough decisions to get our public finances in order, but knows that the most immediate priority is to get people to work. That is why Fine Gael has unveiled an €11 billion fiscal stimulus plan to get 100,000 people back to work.

Ireland needs a government that is not afraid of new ideas, and is willing to embrace change. Fine Gael can and does embrace change. We will shortly unveil proposals for the most radical reform of the health system since the foundation of the State, reforms that will end a two-tier system of healthcare provision.

I believe that our country’s best days are still ahead. Fine Gael doesn’t just offer optimism in our future, though. We offer new ideas, new ambition and a new vision. Led by the party that declared our republic, we can and will create a republic worthy of all our people.