Thank you Simon – and Paddy.
As Minister for Justice, Paddy Cooney defended our State from those who wanted to bring it down.
More than anyone, he represents our proud tradition as the party of law and order.
It is an honour to follow in his footsteps.
We’re here in Peter Burke country – the man who’s never afraid to go into battle for Fine Gael.
And one of our local standard bearers is Councillor Tom Farrell.
Tom is dedicated to his community, his party and his family.
I know we all would like to extend our sympathies to Tom and Goretti on the loss their son Eoinie.
The unforgettable image of the Westmeath team embracing Tom after victory in the Tailteann Cup shows the depth of support for the Farrell family across Westmeath and the GAA family.
Tom and Goretti, we want you to know the Fine Gael family will always be here for you too.
Friends, we are marking over a decade of service in government.
I do not need to remind you where our country stood in the winter of 2010.
And how Enda Kenny, Michael Noonan, Richard Bruton, Phil Hogan and our party helped rebuild our economy and our country.
How they restored for my generation the opportunity to work here in our own country, to start families, to grow old in Ireland – and to make our country a better place.
Those of us in Government now know it is our responsibility to continue their work.
To ensure we have enough homes for my generation and the generations to come.
So everyone has the opportunity to have a home they call their own.
It is our greatest challenge, and we will not fail.
And as we build more homes, we will build stronger, safer communities that people are proud to live in.
Where people feel safe and are safe.
As Minister for Justice, it is my number one priority.
To recruit more Gardai.
To make sure every community has a dedicated Garda who is responsible for their local area.
To give Gardaí the tools and technology to fight crime.
To introduce tougher sentences for serious criminals – and for crimes motivated by hate and prejudice.
To show gangland thugs crime does not pay.
To reinvest the ill gotten proceeds of crime back in our communities.
And to have Zero Tolerance for Domestic, Sexual and Gender Based Violence.
We in Fine Gael know what it is to change our country for the better.
We know it because we have done it before, we are doing it now – and we will do it again.
It’s not always easy – but we must never give up in the face of those whose false promises would destroy our prosperity and security.
And why, under the leadership of Leo Varadkar, we must fight to lead a Government after the next election.
Because the dangers of Sinn Féin are clear.
They are a party of hypocrites who block local housing.
A party who cynically want to keep people down – just so they can go up in polls.
During Brexit, Fine Gael used – and is still using – our influence with friends and partners across Europe to protect peace.
Believe me, I was there – I know.
From Berlin to Brussels, and from Rome to Riga, Leo Varadkar and Simon Coveney built alliances for Ireland.
During the economic crisis, Enda Kenny sat down with Angela Merkel.
And Paschal Donohoe defended our interests when the economic model which has served this country so well was under threat.
Real influence and real partnership to protect real people, peace and jobs.
Who in Europe would Sinn Féin speak to – or should I say, shout at?
They’d isolate Ireland in the EU through their alliances with fringe groups, extremists, eccentrics and Putin sympathisers.
Sinn Féin asks the Irish people to trust them.
To trust the defenders of murder and mayhem.
To trust a party which refuses to return donations from gangland criminals.
To trust a party which won’t support the court bringing these gangland thugs to justice.
To trust a party which only last night celebrated the career of a man who proudly picked up a Garda killer from prison.
Sinn Féin cannot be trusted.
This year, the Irish people didn’t have to look far to see exactly what their policies would do.
Sinn Féin wanted a mini budget.
They wanted an unlimited energy price cap.
We saw the chaos those polices unleashed in the UK.
Chaos which is damaging the living standards of ordinary people.
You won’t hear Sinn Féin talk about those policies now – they deleted their alternative budget from their website.
And still they say they will sack civil servants who do not agree with them.
But Fine Gael under Leo Varadkar will provide Leadership, Stability and Vision.
Leo led our country in the most difficult of times – through Brexit, through the darkest days of Covid.
We face a period of war and uncertainty abroad and anxiety at home.
With his experience and his judgement, I know he will again lead our country with determination and vision.
Please welcome our leader, Tánaiste and next Taoiseach – Leo Varadkar.