We will use our economic strength to continue to build a decent society
Speaking at the Labour Party General Election campaign launch:
Five years ago this week, the 30th Dail was dissolved amid unprecedented political and economic crisis.
Our country was bankrupt.
The economy was in freefall.
The Fianna Fail-led government had ceased to function.
On that occasion, the Labour Party asked the people for a mandate.
A mandate of care and repair – for the economy, and for society.
The people gave us that mandate and we joined with Fine Gael in forming a Government to fulfil that mission.
The last five years have been turbulent for our people and our country.
To deal effectively with the crisis, there were no easy solutions.
But the last five years have also been transformative.
And now we go back to the people to report progress, the gains we’ve made together.
Progress in fixing the economy and restoring the public finances to health.
Progress in creating jobs – 135,000 new jobs and counting, and we’re on the road to full employment.
And social progress. Marriage equality, legislating for the X case, and enhancing children’s rights. On all of these issues and many more, the Labour Party has worked tirelessly with our partners in Government.
It hasn’t always been easy. On occasion we disagreed. But we shared a common determination to do the right thing by the people. A common determination to put right the wrongs done to the people by the incompetence of our predecessors.
Our job is not complete – far from it.
There are many people still enduring hardship as a result of the crash.
We want to do more for those people. Labour has rebuilt the Irish economy and we will implement the right policies to ensure that the recovery is sustained and robust.
Over the next five years, our mission is to sustain and spread the recovery and create an economy and a society that works for working people.
A recovery that increases their living standards through sustained wage increases, targeted and responsible tax reductions and investment in the services families and communities need.
We will use our economic strength and stability to continue to build a decent society. Our vision is of a shared recovery, one that is about supporting workers, their families and those left behind by the crash.
A distinct fault line has already developed in this campaign. Between the parties such as Labour, and our coalition partners, who know we can be confident about Ireland’s future on foot of the unmistakeable recovery… And the alternative – those who talk down Ireland’s resurgence for their own political ends.
We offer hope and a better future; they offer anger and despair. So the priority for progressive voters should be to return Labour to government. We will protect and build on the gains made to date.
We will provide the stability – and balance – essential to achieve this.
We live in an uncertain world that’s changing rapidly and often in unpredictable ways.
Six weeks after a general election in Spain that produced an indecisive outcome, they are still trying to form a government.
At this stage in our recovery, that is a luxury Ireland cannot afford.
The global economic outlook is uncertain, and further economic shocks are a firm possibility.
This is not a time to take risks. It’s a time for caution and care. A time to hold with the course that has brought us so far down the road to recovery.
Labour will continue to put sound management of the public finances first and foremost.
Under our watch, we have reduced our debt level from 123% of GDP – the shocking result of Fianna Fail’s incompetence. It will fall to just over 90% this year.
We now live within EU rules that the public approved by way of referendum.
Those rules set us targets to continually reduce our debt to sustainable levels.
My commitment is this: over the next five years, we will exceed our debt reduction targets. So that debt never again overwhelms us, as it did when Fianna Fail were asleep at the wheel.
We will reduce our debt below 75% of GDP, because as any household knows, paying down debt is the sensible way to do things.
It gradually frees up money for additional investment – in schools, housing, and better healthcare.
And Labour has a very clear plan of investment.
We will use €3 out of every €4 in additional resources generated by the recovery for the investment that our communities need.
To deliver the smallest class sizes in the history of the State.
To provide 110,000 social houses so that we drastically reduce waiting lists.
To deliver better healthcare in the community through a national network of primary care centres.
And to deliver pension improvements for our older people.
But all that investment is dependent on sustaining the recovery in an uncertain world. This is a time when we need a Government which has shown that it can govern.
A stable Government that has demonstrated sound management of the public finances.
A Government that has the internal balance to govern well and in the interests of all our people.
As leader of the Labour Party, I’m asking the people to vote for the only combination of parties which can provide us with stability.
And I’m asking them to vote Labour No 1 so as to give that Government the balance that it needs.
We have a first-class team of candidates.
For five years now, everyone in this room has worked tirelessly day after day for the country and for our constituents.
We have spent the last five years dealing with the mess left behind by Fianna Fail – the very people who now have the brass neck to criticise us for cleaning up after them.
We will fight for every vote in the next three weeks.
We have a great story to tell.
I want to spend the next five years building a better future.
I ask the Irish people to send us back here so that we can build that future together.