A Mhuintir na hEireann. Failte roimh ar fad anseo go Cathair Luimni.
We’re halfway through the government’s term of Office and so this evening I want to talk to you about the progress we have made, the challenges that remain, and where we want to take Ireland for the future.
For our country it’s been a backbreaking time, but it had to be.
Because it was clear that only radical action could save us from total ruin.
Only radical change could rescue us from the political and economic crisis that brought the Troika to our door.
Banks on the brink, an economy in freefall, a quarter of a million jobs lost over three years.
Across the world, Ireland’s good name in tatters, our reputation in shreds.
That was the situation in Ireland in early 2011.
But, let me say to you, wherever you are watching, we are never going back to the culture of those times. Never.
Tonight, I want to thank you.
Because it’s thanks to you, to your sacrifice, your patience, that Ireland is at long last on the road back to recovery and to work.
Yes, our competitiveness has improved. We have 34,000 new jobs in the last year alone.
We are on track to exit the bail-out by the end of the year.
It’s just a start. But it is the progress we’ve been waiting for.
And it is real progress.
I know that many of you have yet to see the evidence of that progress in your day-to-day lives.
You’re living with lower salaries, higher costs. Worried about the bills, the rent, the mortgage, the children and our elderly.
But now the clear economic evidence shows that your huge sacrifice is paying off.
With the decisions you worked with us to take our economy has started to grow and to strengthen.
Yes, we still have a long way to go. But because of what you did at your end of the bargain, finally, there are better days ahead.
For our part in Government we started with repairing, Ireland’s international reputation.
Tanaiste Eamonn Gilmore and I knew that being a new Government wasn’t enough.
Our global partners and investors had to see that we were a very different government, a serious government.
From the outset, we proved that in our financial decisions.
And I can report to you that Ireland’s international reputation has been fully restored.
In January of this year, we assumed the EU Presidency. The consensus is that our tenure was a great success.
The EU budget 2014 to 2020.
The Reform of the Common Agricultural and Fisheries policies.
The mandate for EU-US trade talks.
Major progress on banking reform.
Were all negotiated and agreed by Ireland.
We showed the world that when it comes to international relations and diplomacy.
Ireland is very much a leader, right up there with the
And in our economy too, after some disastrous years, confidence is gradually being restored.
Despite a tough international environment, our economy has started to grow.
Irish exports are at an historic high, worth over 180 billion euro.
The interest-rate on government bonds is down from 15 per cent to less than four per cent.
Across the world, investors are watching Ireland and they like what they see.
I know that for years, all of you at home were watching our public finances, not alone with dread, but with disbelief.
You can’t run your homes and businesses by spending more than you take in.
And you know that years of give-away budgets gave away nothing except our economic security, our children’s futures.
So our budgets to date were designed to attract investmen and to create jobs.
Specifically, they focused on what was needed to give us back our financial security, our power to decide the kind of country we want to become.
I want to say that I know how tough this has been on you, on your families, on your businesses.
But you now know your sacrifices are showing results.
Because since coming to office, we have exceeded all our budgetary targets as we move towards manageable and
normal budgeting by 2015.
Next year, we will deliver a primary surplus in our budget,
which means that finally we can start to reduce the burden of our national debt.
Central to all of this is of course jobs.
Getting our people back to work is what drives every economic decision.
Yes, there are too many people still out of work.
Yes, there are too many people still leaving the country.
But you know something, there’s a change happening.
Job creation is now at its highest level in five years.
The Live-Register number has fallen every month for 15 consecutive months. That’s progress.
Before we came to Office, Ireland was losing 7,000 jobs a month. Now we’re creating 3,000 new jobs every month.
That’s a wage, hope, dignity being returned to 3000 families this month, every month.
The IDA has enjoyed two record years. There’s a net increase of 12,500 people working in IDA-supported companies in 2011 and 2012.
Crucially, the top international companies continue to choose Ireland for their operations. Companies like Google, Paypal, IBM.
Why? The leaders of these companies tell me it’s because of our incredible workforce.
In fact, Intel has just announced to the world that its new ‘Quark chip’ and ‘Galileo board’ has been designed and developed here in Ireland – a statement of real significance globally.
A huge endorsement of the creativity and skill of the employees in Leixlip.
Later this month, 10,000 entrepreneurs will gather at the world’s digital summit in Dublin – a melting pot of new and creative ideas.
But we are also looking to our home companies.
Big Irish brands like Kerry Group, Glanbia, Paddy Power are expanding in the areas of food production and e-commerce.
We know our small businesses are the lifeblood of our economy.
They keep jobs and life in our communities.
Cutting VAT in sectors like tourism and hospitality has made a huge difference to them and their ability to create and sustain employment.
For those small businesses credit is key.
We’ve got them a better deal.
Forcing the banks to give more credit.
At our end, setting up new systems like the partial-loan guarantee scheme.
And strongly defending our 12.5% corporation tax rate – a key element of our jobs strategy.
Getting a better deal on the bail-out was urgent for our government.
Undoing some of the worst aspects agreed by the previous government.
For the sake of our families and businesses, they had to be reversed.
And I’m glad to say they were.
We helped the lowest paid by reversing the cut to the minimum wage.
We helped all our workers by reversing Fianna Fáil’s plan to increase income tax by €500 million over two years.
A plan which would have had a disastrous impact on jobs.
They also left us with the Promissory Note arrangement,
by which Ireland would have to borrow €3.1 billion every March to pay back the debts of Anglo Irish Bank.
Despite those who said we would never manage to renegotiate it, we actually did.
Michael Noonan and his team did a first class negotiation job.
The promissory note is gone. Anglo/IBRC is gone.
The result is that Ireland’s borrowing requirements will be 20 billion euro less over the next ten years.
And we’ll save an extra €9 billion through the lower interest rates and longer maturities on our bail-out loans.
But what we have to remember is this.
That every step we took, every wrong we managed to right, brings us closer to exiting the bail-out.
Apart from the bail-out there were ‘the banks’.
For the government and the people, the news was dismal.
The banking fixation for the bottom-line and the bonus mutilated our economy, almost annihilated our country.
So we took action, we downsized them, creating two pillar banks.
We ended the infamous ‘bank guarantee’.
To recoup at least some of the taxpayers’ money which has been pumped into the banks, we sold Irish Life and some of the Government’s stake in Bank of Ireland.
I’m happy to report that the banks are now back in the markets.
Deposits are returning.
They’re depending less on the ECB.
But for our families, people trying to keep a roof over their head, the biggest banking issue remains. Mortgage distress.
For you, watching in your homes we have overhauled the bankruptcy laws and created the Personal Insolvency Service to rebalance the rights of borrower and lender.
We have made it very clear to banks, and they have agreed that by the end of next year, they must have reached sustainable arrangements with the vast majority of mortgage-holders in distress.
Because that distress is not just financial.
It’s emotional, psychological, physical, it’s in every corner
of our country.
And it must be relieved if people are to get on with their lives and our country is to heal.
But the banks were not the only focus of necessary reform.
Reform is essential throughout our public services too if we are to have a strong, lasting recovery.
The Haddington Road Agreement, negotiated by Brendan Howlin, will bring better, more efficient public services.
The kind that will do more and cost less.
It’s an agreement that must and will be implemented in full to protect the services that people depend on.
And politics too is changing.
Corporate donations have effectively been banned.
Dail sitting days have increased by a third.
We’ve brought in gender quotas to get more women into politics and parties who don’t comply will be fined.
Last week the Irish people made their decision in two referendums.
I fully accept and respect those decisions.
We will move to establish the Court of Appeal as soon
In putting the issue of the future of the Seanad to the people, we honoured a clear promise to do so.
The outcome is clear and we will now continue reforming the political system and ensuring that the Seanad is as effective as possible.
I intend to discuss this with other leaders in the coming weeks and, as a small first step, I have asked that legislation be prepared to give effect to the 1979 decision of the Irish people to extend the Seanad electorate to all graduates.
But just as Ireland faced a crisis in the economy, it also faced a crisis of insight, compassion.
On becoming Taoiseach, I was determined to face up to issues that had been ignored for far too long.
Having met face to face the survivors of the Magdalene laundries, I was determined that they would get proper recognition, proper respect and proper support.
That resulted in a full state apology, a fair and non-adversarial redress scheme and other state supports for the twilight years of their lives.
Equally, we set about protecting our children, by having our Constitution recognise them as citizens in their own right for the first time and plans to put ‘Children First’ on a statutory footing.
And we looked after their mothers. The Protection of Life in Pregnancy Bill bringing clarity to the professionals and comfort to expectant mothers.
Previous governments steered well clear.
But as Taoiseach, I was convinced of the need to provide that clarity.
I believe we achieved a delicate balance that protected the life of the mother and her baby.
I believe we have done the right thing for all the women of Ireland.
Let me say that if there are two words that sum up all that was tragic about the Tiger era, those words are Priory Hall.
Families at breaking point, because of bad development, bad building, bad regulation, bad banks.
I admire the dignity and integrity of these families. So I’m pleased to say that the government has given the Priory Hall families another chance at a better life.
And that is exactly what we are trying to do for Ireland. Yes, I know it’s been tough. And on Tuesday the budget will be tough. But it has two key objectives, both of them in your interest.
(1) To reach our agreed targets so we can exit the bail-out
(2) To allow us to invest as much as we can in creating jobs
The budget correction will be €2.5 billion which will leave us with a 4.8% deficit next year. That’s well ahead of the required 5.1% target.
Two years ago, I addressed the Irish people and said that I wanted to be the Taoiseach who would retrieve our economic sovereignty and independence.
The decisions we have taken, many of them tough – government and people working in partnership – mean that this goal is now within our grasp.
Tonight I can confirm that Ireland is on track to exit the EU/IMF/ bail-out on December 15th.
And we won’t go back.
It won’t mean that our financial troubles are over.
Yes, there are still fragile times ahead. There’s still a long way to go. But at last, the era of the bailout will be no-more.
The economic emergency will be over.
But the exit from the bail-out is not an end in itself. In fact it’s just the beginning. The beginning of our freedom to choose the kind of Ireland we want to build.
To plan for that new era, we will publish a new Medium Term Economic Strategy before the end of the year.
We will use our economic freedom to return Ireland to full employment and to plan for better living standards across the country.
We will protect and enhance our competitiveness.
We will keep taxes on jobs and investment as low as possible.
We will continue to reform our public sector, keeping our frontline services while cutting costs and waste.
We will find new ways to finance investment in transport, schools, healthcare and communications.
We continue to invest in education – the key to our children’s futures.
We will overhaul our welfare system to make sure people have both the support and the incentive to get back to work.
Above all, we will be changing the economic model from one based on speculation to one based on enterprise.
Swapping greed, exclusion and speculation for ideas, inclusion and innovation.
Because we refuse to go back to the policies that brought our country to the brink of bankruptcy.
Those days are over.
And so to the future where we all have to live.
I have never been as confident that Ireland will beat the economic challenges that we face.
I have never been as proud when I see the response from people to these challenges.
The power of community leadership, the extent of voluntary commitment, the embrace of family solidarity evident all over this country reinforces my view of the real strength of the Irish people.
These are the attributes that have distinguished us as a people for generations.
These are the qualities that make us stand apart.
They are qualities that have survived and flourished throughout the recession.
These are the traits that lead to ideas, to creativity and to success.
I want all our people, men and women, young and experienced, at home and abroad to assist in our national effort to build that new future.
I know we can do this, I know we can succeed.
I know we will succeed.
Your spirit, your commitment, your belief are critical to this effort.
That’s what makes us different.
That’s what makes us great.
That’s why we will win.