Programme for Government report vindicates Labour members decision to enter government
Speaking at the Programme for Government report
This is a report that looks back on the fifth and final year of this Government’s term.
But it’s also a report that helps us look forward – to the recovery now firmly under way and what we need to do to sustain it.
In that respect, it’s a report about progress – and opportunity.
The progress of turning economic crisis into recovery.
And the opportunity now to build on that recovery.
So that we spread the benefits of growth, and ensure every household shares in renewed prosperity.
As Labour Party Leader, I can say with conviction that this report vindicates the decision of our members in 2011 to enter government.
Because if the true test of any government is to leave the country in better shape than which it found it, Labour – working together with Fine Gael – has delivered.
Ireland has come a long way since the troika arrived under Fianna Fail’s watch in 2010 and a long winter ensued.
The recovery is now in full bloom, and Ireland is the fastest growing economy in the EU.
Our public finances are in rude health and our public debt has been brought firmly under control.
More than 1,000 new jobs are being created every week.
New and exciting apprenticeships are being created for our young people and the Government is working hard to bring emigrants home.
This month, all workers are taking home more pay because of USC reductions.
Child Benefit is increasing by €5 to help every family.
And the State pension is increasing by €3 a week to help older people.
These are modest but progressive steps in our wider plan: to spread the recovery in such a way that the benefits are felt by every household.
The continued stability delivered by this Government offers continued progress on all these fronts and more.
In short, we are faced now with a very significant opportunity – to build the best country in which to live, work and raise a family.
But opportunity must be realised.
This spring, as we commemorate the Rising that paved the way to independence, the people will fittingly elect the next government.
The choice in that election will be simple.
To continue with the Labour-Fine Gael coalition that has continued stability, growth and balanced government.
Or to take a gamble on Fianna Fail, who caused the crisis in the first place, and Sinn Fein, who would return us there in no time.
They have no interest in, or intention of, being in government.
They are two parties auditioning to beat each other so that they can lead the opposition.
In doing so, they are putting party posturing ahead of the national interest.
Nobody can accuse Labour of doing that.
Labour and Fine Gael are two different parties but we have worked effectively together.
We have provided balanced government that has driven both economic and social progress, from enhanced workers’ rights to marriage equality.
And that is precisely what we’ll continue to do if re-elected.
We’ll start by ensuring the public finances are protected so that the recovery is sustained.
Sensible economic management is the foundation for everything that follows.
Therefore, as Labour Leader, in the forthcoming election, my key commitment to the people – who gave so much to get this country back on its feet – will be this:
Labour in Government will, first and foremost, continue to implement sound, responsible policies that safeguard the public finances.
Under our watch, Ireland will not return to crisis.
In building the recovery, Labour has stood up for working people, for families, for communities, and for a modern and progressive Ireland.
Now we will stand up for Ireland’s future.
By sustaining a strong economy to build a decent society.
By abolishing USC for low and middle-income workers so that they feel the recovery.
And by ensuring sufficient investment in services so that our communities prosper.
Labour will unapologetically argue that improvements in our people’s living standards are affordable and sustainable.
They are – provided the next Government continues to manage the public finances responsibly.
Labour will do precisely that.
Working together with Fine Gael, we will sustain the recovery and spread the benefits.
So that renewed prosperity is shared by all, and not just a few.