My first Ministerial visit of this year took me to Albania. I’ll admit it’s not a country I have encountered much but coming home I’ve learned that we do have some important things in common.
Upon taking office this Government committed to taking the necessary steps to bring stability to the economic and fiscal affairs of the Country and to return the Country to growth and job creation. Exiting the EU/IMF Programme represents a key milestone on this path to recovery.
The choice facing the Irish voting public on October 4th is a very simple one; do you want to abolish the Seanad, yes or no? A Yes vote will save €20 million a year, reduce the number of national politicians by a third, and bring us into line with other European countries of our size, all of which have just one chamber of parliament.
Securing long-term, sustainable livelihoods for farmers and fishermen, a booming food exports industry, and a horse meat and fodder crisis, sum up the last six-months in my Department. It’s been a very busy and productive few months for the Agri/Food and fisheries industry with Ireland completing hugely significant deals in Agriculture and Fisheries during the EU Presidency.
The government has focused on fixing the fundamentals of our economy, restoring our fiscal sovereignty, and enhancing our international competitiveness. In this regard, it is vital we have a modern, fit-for-purpose legal system.
Ireland is a great place to make films and television programmes, a point that An Taoiseach and I made to Stephen Spielberg and Daniel Day Lewis when we met at Government Buildings in January, and a matter I also discussed with Tom Cruise when he was in Dublin recently.
Marking the 15th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement is an opportunity to reflect on progress and to plan ahead with a sharp focus on a shared society.
Working directly on the issues that matter to the people of Meath East has given me a passion and determination to work hard on behalf of the constituency. I have campaigned on a range of local issues like getting a fair deal for people in pyrite homes, to fighting for the people of Slane who have campaigned long and hard to get a bypass for their village.
Ireland takes the chair on 1 January and we intend to hit the ground running. We’ll be about substance, not show – in short, we’ll be a no-nonsense Presidency. This will be Ireland’s 7th Presidency of the European Union. We are known for running an effective Presidency, and Ihope very much that we can live up to that reputation once again next year.
I am confident that by making these difficult but necessary decisions, we will stay on course to exit the bailout and continue on the road towards economic recovery. We are beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel.