Declaring that Fianna Fáil was “putting action first”, Taoiseach Micheál Martin on Saturday strongly defended the record of the Coalition and promised “real progress” on housing, healthcare, education and relations with Northern Ireland by the time of the next general election.
Addressing over 2,500 delegates at his party’s árdfheis at the RDS in Dublin, its first since Fianna Fáil entered government in 2020, Mr Martin was enthusiastically received by activists when he made his televised address on Saturday evening.
He declared that the “greatest divide in our politics today is between those who want to tackle our country’s problems and those who want to exploit them” and placed Fianna Fáil firmly in the former group.
He contrasted Fianna Fáil, which “sees politics as the means to advance the interests of the nation” and the Opposition — without naming Sinn Féin — as “those who only care about attacking others.”
“Let no one be in any doubt where Fianna Fáil stands,” he said, to applause. “We believe in taking action”.
“We believe in the hard work of finding solutions, creating opportunities, and making Ireland a stronger, fairer country.”
He condemned those who see Ireland as a “failed state” and embarked on a list of the achievements of his party in office since its foundation.
“Two million more people live in our republic today than did one hundred years ago, and in area after area Ireland and her people’s lives have been transformed.
“There is no doubt that today we face real and urgent challenges, there are many in our society who need our help — but those who dismiss the progress we have achieved and seek to tell a story of Ireland as some type of ‘failed state’ are deliberately misleading our people and selling our country short,” Mr Martin said.
He also hailed the Government’s management of the Covid-19 pandemic which he said had resulted in Ireland having far fewer deaths than both the European average and the UK.
Mr Martin also drew applause when he spoke about the Shared Island initiative, a scheme to finance cross-Border projects which he has personally championed.
“For the first time in our history where there is a sustained investment to support vital North/South projects, to build deeper connections and understanding,” he said. “Projects that have been talked about for decades are now under way.”
He said the initiative had resulted in “the most inclusive dialogue ever between communities” as well as “a major series of research studies to start properly understanding the differences, similarities and opportunities in relation to health services, trade, childcare, education and other vital areas between North and South.”
He promised that when the Government ended its term, people would see “real progress for the Irish people”, in the shape of “a new era of social and affordable housing, healthcare which is more accessible and affordable, investment in childcare and education, support for strong communities, moving from words to action on a shared island.”
While Mr Martin’s speech did not mention Sinn Féin by name, the Minister for Education Norma Foley, who delivered the warm-up speech before the Taoiseach’s address, devoted much of her contribution to attacks on the main opposition party, much to the delight of delegates.