D’aoibh go leir istoiche agus mile buiochas as ucht eisteacht leis an raiteas gear seo.
I welcome Ireland’s exit from the EU/IMF Programme.
Through the sacrifices and hard work of the Irish people, important progress has been achieved over the past five years.
That said the impact of this crisis is still being felt throughout our country and across Europe.
Families, businesses and communities are still facing high unemployment, falling incomes and reduced public services.
Fixing the public finances is only one part of a much broader set of economic and social challenges.
There is much more that can and should be done to achieve a faster and fairer recovery.
The current evidence is that we risk a two-tier recovery – where some prosper but many are left behind.
Direct action is required not only to improve the pace of job creation but also to deliver more high-quality, well-paid jobs.
Youth unemployment is clearly one of the biggest challenges facing society. Much more needs to be done to tackle this issue.
Small businesses are the drivers of job creation and the heartbeat of our economy.
In towns throughout the country you can see that small businesses are not benefitting from the upturn in the international economy.
We have put forward a series of initiatives to help small businesses in practical ways such as reducing commercial rates. Credit is still not flowing to business.
Another of our proposals is to set up a new Business Bank so that it can lend money to small and medium sized enterprises.
Over 100,000 families are experiencing deep problems with their mortgages and many more struggle with household debts.
This problem has been ignored for too long, and last year’s decision to put banks in charge of restructuring mortgages isn’t working.
It’s time for an independent Mortgage Resolution Office to be set up that can help bring family debts down and keep them in their homes.
Family incomes will come under increasing pressure next year.
The doubling of property tax is only one of many extra costs faced by families.
Incomes of older people were targeted in the last two budgets and the young unemployed had their core social welfare rates cut.
Meanwhile, the cost of living continues to go up.
Every independent study has confirmed that this government’s taxes and cuts have hit struggling families hardest.
This approach must change.
A stronger, fairer recovery requires a real focus on education and training.
It provides the only way of delivering progress.
A central part of the recent budget was the decision to focus cuts on health services.
Morale has never been lower amongst those working in the health service.
Medical cards are being taken from those who need them most, children with special needs, people with multiple medical conditions and the elderly.
This is unacceptable.
As even the Taoiseach admits, major failings in European policy were central to the scale of debt faced by Ireland and the need for a troika programme three years ago.
Since then Europe has changed many policies. More needs to be done. Ireland has not received full justice for its case.
Europe should give Ireland the retrospective debt deal that we were promised in June 2012.
A further key point is that the European Central Bank should return to Ireland all profits it makes on holding Irish bonds.
It already does this for one country. The money saved would be almost equal to every cut planned for the health service next year.
I believe that Ireland has seen enough of the politics of total opposition which gives you parties which promise one thing before an election and do the exact opposite in power.
I believe in constructive opposition.
That’s why Fianna Fáil has set out credible alternatives.
Now, more than ever, Irish politics still needs real change.
This crisis has led to a new spirit of community throughout our country.
People are coming together to help each other.
We need our politics to show some of this spirit.
That work is essential if we are to deliver a sustainable and fair recovery.
Go raibh maith agaibh go leir.