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Speech of the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar TD at the 82nd Fine Gael Ard Fheis

University of Galway, Saturday, 6th April 2024

6th April 2024 - Leo Varadkar, TD

Commissioner, Oireachtas members, former Oireachtas members, councillors, members of executive council, delegates, and friends.

Fáilte chuig Ollscoil na Gallimhe agus a 82ú Ard Fheis Fhine Gael.

Delegates, this is my fourteenth Ard Fheis and the last that at which I will speak to you as Taoiseach and Party President.

I want to take this opportunity to thank you all for your loyalty, your hard work, your support, and your friendship for the 7 years I spent as Party Leader and 13 years in Government.

When tough decisions had to be made, when criticism was unrelenting, when I was down – you were always there to raise me up, to give me faith and confidence.

It’s Fine Gael members and volunteers who make this party great.  And, I look forward, to giving back to the Party in the years ahead in any way I can and in particular by helping candidates in the run up to the Local and European Elections. Above all, I want you to be proud to be members and supporters of Fine Gael.

Proud of the state we founded and defended. Proud of the republic we declared. Proud that we ensured that Ireland took it’s place among the nations of the world in Europe and the UN. Proud of the economic and social progress this country has made under our care.

Last month, we entered our fourteenth year in Government. Something we have never achieved before.  And under Simon Harris, I believe we can secure a historic fourth term in Government after the next general election. Something no party has achieved in a half century.

Not because we want to make history but because it is the right thing for our country and our people.

We need to protect all that has been achieved, build on it and put right the things we have not yet. We have led Ireland from unemployment to full employment, from austerity to prosperity, from budget deficit to budget surplus.

We led through a pandemic in which we saved thousands of lives, businesses, and jobs, and through Brexit when we prevented a hard border between North and South and protected our place at the heart of the European Union.

We have made the country a more equal and more modern place enshrining the rights of children in constitution and advancing the rights of women, the LGBT community, and other minorities.

We have made significant steps towards affordable childcare and universal healthcare, making access to both more affordable for more people.

Wating lists have fallen two years in a row, most people no longer have to pay to see their GP or spend a night in a public hospital and Irish people are living longer and healthier lives than ever before.

We’ve made work pay better, with higher pay and lower personal taxes, the implementation of a national Living Wage and statutory sick pay, and improved family leave, allowing parents to spend more time with their children in those crucial early years.

We’ve doubled spending on the arts, culture, and sport. And that’s making a huge difference. Our green house gas emissions are now falling.

The National Broadband Plan is underway – bringing fibre-based internet connections to every home, school, business, farm in Ireland.

We established the Technological Universities and the Rural Development Fund of €1 billion and fought to protect the Common Agriculture Policy. Don’t let anyone say that this party isn’t committed to rural Ireland.

And since 2011 we have quadrupled investment in public infrastructure. This has meant considerably more investment in priorities like new housing, new healthcare facilities and schools. This year around 35,000 new homes will be built in Ireland.

When we came to office in 2011, fewer than 7,000 were. In fact, since Fine Gael came to office, the number of people benefiting from social housing has increased by more than 40,000 and there are now 500 new first-time homeowners every week.

That’s real progress. Don’t let them say otherwise.

Delegates, today, we turn a new chapter on the story of Fine Gael. For almost seven years, Enda Kenny and Michael Noonan led our party. They did what needed to be done. They fixed our economy, restored our prosperity, our sovereignty, and our self-respect.

For the next seven years, Simon Coveney and I led this party.  We did what needed to be done too. We led the country through Brexit, through the pandemic, through inflation to full employment and greater equality and opportunity.

Now is the time for the next chapter under Simon Harris a man who has the energy, empathy, experience, and campaigning skills to bring this party forward and to bring our project to the next stage.

My only ask is that you give him and his team your loyalty and total support.

Up Fine Gael!

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