Speech by Frances Fitzgerald TD European Parliament Selection Convention Dublin, 6th March 2019

-   Frances Fitzgerald TD

Good evening Taoiseach; Tánaiste, Ministers, Members of the Oireachtas, Colleagues, Members of Fine Gael and friends. Thank you all for being here. I’d like to begin by thanking Minister Richard Bruton and Deputy Kate O’Connell for nominating me this evening – I really appreciate what you have said.

 

Welcome Mark. We share a friendship dating back to the forum for Peace and reconciliation in Dublin Castle. You have shown courage and fortitude in extremely difficult and challenging times on this island.

 

I am here at this convention to ask you, the members, to give me the honour of standing to represent this great city and county of Dublin, which I dearly love, as your MEP.

 

I want to thank the branches and the constituencies across Dublin, who have welcomed me in recent weeks – and who have nominated me. This is a time of huge uncertainty and extraordinary challenge. I want to continue the work, in the setting of the European Parliament, so ably done to date by the Taoiseach, Tánaiste and Minister McEntee in representing Ireland’s interests and the challenges that we face in a new post-Brexit scenario.

 

We must work now to create new opportunities to ensure that the voices and views of smaller countries are heard in the reshaped post-Brexit EU. We must continue to proactively influence the EU agenda.

 

I have long experience of EU negotiations through participating in the EU Council of Ministers and important experience of networking and advocacy with European colleagues, as Chair of the National Women’s Council to bring greater equality to Ireland.

 

Since Fine Gael came into Government in 2011 we have faced some of the greatest challenges in our history including re-establishing our economic sovereignty, rehabilitating our international reputation and Brexit.

 

It is worth recalling also that in 2011 our reputation in Europe was on the floor after being neglected by Fianna Fáil ministers who regularly shunned European meetings in the time preceding the bailout.

 

The past challenges we faced required skill and influence in the European institutions and the European Parliament. We rose and overcame those – and I have no doubt we will also rise and overcome the challenges and realise the opportunities presented by Brexit.

 

We need experienced people to represent us in Europe where vital decisions occur every day, decisions that will profoundly influence the future of our country.

 

Our past achievements would not have been possible without the outstanding contribution of our excellent Fine Gael MEPs.

I want to pay particular tribute to our MEP Brian Hayes, to thank him for his outstanding work representing Dublin City and County, and country – and I wish him well in his future career. Gay Mitchell and indeed Mary Banotti also served us with distinction.

 

We know that our place, in the heart of the European People’s Party, the largest party in the European Parliament, ensures we have influence beyond our relatively small numbers.

 

The EPP is also the defender of the European centre ground, a group working together to advance progress across Europe. There is no place in the EPP for those who seek to undermine our shared European democratic values.

 

This will be a crucial European election campaign. Events over the last number of years have dispelled the assumption that the centre – be it left or right – holds against extremism.

 

We cannot assume that anymore. We have to defend it and advance it. And let’s be very clear – fighting to defend and advance the centre is not fighting for the establishment or the status-quo.

 

It is fighting for decent wages and living standards, childcare, good public services and infrastructure, funded by an economy that works for people and not the other way around.

 

It is fighting against those who exploit fear and exclusion to pedal false hope for their own aims.

 

The language of hate has no place in Europe.

 

It is advancing the social and economic progress we have made.

 

It is ensuring that the EU keeps its values at its core by championing democracy, the rule of law and freedom of expression at home and abroad.

 

This election is about the future of Dublin.

 

I have a record of delivering change and progress in Dublin

 

  • driven by my love for the city and county where I grew up, went to school and college and raised my family.

 

  • rooted in my social work in St. Ultan’s Children’s’ Hospital; the Mater Hospital and St. James’ Hospital – and for 10 years as a social worker in Ballymun

 

  • honed during my political experience representing two Dublin constituencies over 18 years and driving reform as Tánaiste and as a Government Minister…where I established the Department for Children & Youth Affairs, and as, Minister for Justice and Equality, enacted 27 pieces of legislation.

 

The passing of the Marriage Equality referendum was a real highlight that showed us the kind of people we can be and the kind of future we can have.

I was the Minister responsible for steering the legislation through the Oireachtas and I am so proud of that.

 

As Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation I secured record funding in Budget 2018, established a Brexit Loan Scheme for small and medium sized businesses and worked to build new trading relationships and agreements abroad. I know how our SMEs will need to diversify – and this will require new skills, new budgets and new investments. And we now also have a unique opportunity to continue to promote and develop Dublin as one the EU’s biggest Financial Services Centres post-Brexit.

 

I stand for a European budget post 2020 that supports inclusive growth, innovation, research and increased opportunities for our young people. One that works towards the goal all of us have, which is for our children to have a more secure economic future.

I will campaign to ensure EIB investment across all public and private sectors here in Dublin.

 

I am ambitious for Dublin, a complex historical city that we must continue to develop into a vibrant, liveable and inclusive city.

 

I will represent, defend and advance the interests of Dublin – this great city and county where we must achieve the right balance between the needs of family life and work, between the needs of the young and the old and using the best of what we have today to build the sustainable, inclusive city of tomorrow.

 

Dublin must continue to be a European city based on respect, diversity, opportunity and inclusivity.

 

A city where we plan properly, balance development with sustainability and protect the unique environment in which we live – and for a just transition of meeting our climate change targets.

 

A place where small businesses and multinational companies thrive side by side; where  families can live close to where they work or in the communities in which they grew up; and where a commuter is someone who travels on a good public transport service as opposed to eating cereal bars on the M50.

 

But of course a great, world class city can only exist in a prosperous and inclusive Ireland that fully plays its part in a strong, democratic, confident Europe.

 

I have the energy, the experience and the direction to make this happen.

 

If I do receive the honour of representing Dublin in the European Parliament, I will carry forward the principle of inclusivity and a rights-based approach that has always guided me – and fight for it at every level and on every issue. I stand for social progress that advances the rights of women and minorities. The European Union has always stood behind that cause – and I can ensure that this continues.

 

On the key issues facing Europe of migration and terrorism, I know the key players in Europe.

 

I will conclude by saying that as MEPs, we must work across party lines for the benefit of Ireland. Fine Gael has never taken the European Parliament for granted. The elections to the European Parliament on May 24th are crucial to the future of this country.

 

With your support tonight, and in the coming weeks, I can ensure that the needs of the city and county of Dublin – and our country – are brought to the heart of the European Parliament.

 

ENDS

 

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