Opening Address by An Taoiseach, Enda Kenny TD, to the Fine Gael Ard Fheis 2014

-   Susan Moss

Welcome to the 77th
Fine Gael Ard Fheis.

This weekend, we are back at the scene of many legendary Fine Gael gatherings in the past.
Local elections I welcome in particular our candidates for the forthcoming European and local elections.
The women and men who will carry the Fine Gael message to the people in every community in Ireland.
And that message is that Fine Gael is determined that the economic recovery which is now underway is felt in every corner of the country. We will make the recovery local.

For the local elections, Fine Gael has already selected 449 candidates, 98 of whom are women. This means that Fine Gael will have more women candidates than any other party in this election.
They are standing for election to radically reformed local authorities. The new councils will have new powers and responsibilities. Who you elect really matters.

The Fine Gael candidates are committed to using their influence to support economic development. That’s why they are all committed to opposing any increases in commercial rates, an issue so important for small businesses, and the retail sector in particular.

In the coming months, 31 new Local Employment Offices will be opened in the local authorities to support the creation of new business and new jobs. A vote for the Fine Gael candidates is a vote for
efficient and cost effective local government; for low local taxes and for ensuring that economic recovery is felt locally.

European elections

Equally important will be the choice facing votersin the European elections. The European Parliament has increased in power and importance. It now has co-decision powers in almost every policy
area.The number of Irish MEPs will reduce to eleven this
year.

To ensure that Ireland remains strong in Europe, it’s more important than ever that we elect strong Irish members of the European Parliament in May. The Fine Gael team – Mairead McGuinness and Jim
Higgins in the Midlands-North-West; Brian Hayes in Dublin; and Sean Kelly, Deirdre Clune and Simon Harris in the South – have the ability, experience and strength to fight for Irish interests in Europe.
When elected, they will be part of the European People’s Party – the largest political family in Europe.
As you know, Fine Gael is hosting the EPP Congress for the elections next week. That will bring over 2,000 delegates and media to Dublin – a real vote of confidence in Fine Gael and in Ireland.

Health

Today’s report by the Chief Medical Officer on the
deaths in Portlaoise Regional Hospital makes for grim reading.
No family should have to fight for truth in our health system….no family suffering such grief and trauma should ever have their concerns ignored. I want to commend Minister James Reilly… for his decisive and swift action on this matter. All eleven recommendations in the report have been accepted and are being implemented…from today. It will help to ensure that this can never happen again. It should never have happened at all.

It will ensure that Ireland will continue to be recognised as one of the safest countries in the world in which to give birth to children. I want to convey my deepest sympathy to the families who lost their babies. It is through the resolve of the Molloy, Molyneaux, McCarthy, and Keyes families that this change is happening. Not only must we now change the culture about access to information, we must change the barriers to access to our health system as a whole.  Healthcare in Ireland 3 years ago the Irish people voted for Change.

Change in the way we run our economy.
Change in the way we manage our finances.
Change in the way we behave in this business of
politics.

Above all…. they voted for one radical change. Change in our health system.
A health system that was resistant…to what was the usual cure: the people’s money. And because…..during the Celtic Tiger…. the people’s money was merely spent….. and not invested…. Tens of thousands of our men and women and children joined what became a national ritual in the Tiger years… Waiting.They waited on lists. They waited on chairs. They waited on trolleys. On one day in January in 2011…. their waiting created a national record:

569….. sick…. vulnerable people…. lying on trolleys in the various A&Es across our country.
Everyone knows that once they are in our health system, they are well cared for. We have the best nurses, doctors, care staff in the world. Getting into the system has been the problem.

We came into Office promising to change all of this…
Tonight….. I can say to you……the evidence is there….
that we are.

The numbers tell their own story:
·
Last year….2013…. the number of people counted on trolleys in A &Es was a third lower than in 2011.
·
Yes….thanks to Minister Reilly’s reforms that’s 30,000 people…..30,000….. fewer than two years earlier…..
·
In 2011, there were 6,235 patients waiting over 8 months for inpatient and daycase procedures….By the
end of 2013 there were 68 waiting.
Until 2012, there was no data on outpatient appointments.
It simply wasn’t collected.

James Reilly not only insisted on its compilation but he has tackled the waiting times head on…
We have made these critical and real improvements…. even when the number of people employed in the health service has fallen by 10%. That reform…. that improvement is good…. But it is only a start.Waiting lists need to fall even more……. and they will.

The system needs to become even more efficient…..and it will.

Above all else…. our health service must become fairer…. more equitable…..and it will.
Minister Reilly’s work is focused on the patient and on making the fundamental structural changes that will bring about a really effective health system for everybody. That’s why I’m looking forward to the White Paper on UHI – Universal Health Insurance being published.

It will set out in detail….. how we will introduce the most radical reform of our health service…. … since the foundation of the State…Crucially…. it will outline how we will tear down the barriers to access…..So for a change, when implemented, a new health service will be ready and Waiting for you…. If you and your family need it.  Of course…. the current system of public/private care is not just inefficient.
It is deeply unfair.

It’s hard to believe that just two years before we commemorate the centenary of 1916…. too often….. too many of our people…..are treated not on the basis of medical need…..but on the basis of income.
On the basis of whether or not… they can afford private health insurance.

A basis that is…. and should be… repugnant ….to the people of a still-young Republic.
That is why in the Programme for Government we committed to moving to Universal Health Insurance.
A single system in which everyone will have health
insurance.

A single system where everybody’s GP care is covered by their insurance.
A single system in which everyone will be treated the same……where the State will either pay for… or subsidise…. the care needed by our men and women on low incomes. A single system where….for a change…. there are no outsiders.

We have looked at many other countries..we are taking their successes and creating our own Irish model.
We plan to introduce UHI in 2019. And the long and hard work…. needed for its implementation
has already begun.

A vital part of this work is Dr James Reilly’s consultation with the Irish people.
The biggest ever…public consultation… in the history of our health service.
Because the health service does not exist to sustain jobs or to support itself or its own interest.
No. The health service belongs to the people….. It exists for the people…..It is paid for by the people

And it is time to hear what they want and expect from it.

Conclusion
Over the weekend, we will debate the key issues facing the Government and the country. It’s also a great opportunity to renew acquaintances, meet our candidates and talk about issues that matter to us all. I look forward to meeting you all tomorrow.

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