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Fine Gael in Government is delivering long-awaited reforms in child protection and pre-school services - Fitzgerald
Fine Gael reaffirms its ambitious growth plan for agriculture in rural Ireland - Coveney
Exiting the Bailout: A Sustainable Fiscal Strategy for Ireland, by Minister for Finance, Michael Noonan
Minister for Justice, Alan Shatter TD
Real progess being made in delivering a health service worthy of the people - Reilly
An Taoiseach, Enda Kenny TD, at the FG National Conference
Kerry priest wrong to criticise Taoiseach's attendance at Monsignor O'Flaherty memorial event - Coghlan
Healy Eames urges Minister Rabbitte to ensure Cyber bullying is urgently tackled
Public Accounts Committee must investigate & scrutinise Irish overseas aid in light of misappropriation - Harris
An Taoiseach Enda Kenny TD launches FG Campaign for a Yes vote in the Children's Referendum
Minister Frances Fitzgerald TD at the launch of Fine Gael's campaign for a Yes vote in the Children's Referendum
Minister for Justice, Alan Shatter TD at the launch of Fine Gael's campaign for a Yes vote in the Children's Referendum
Comments by Jim Daly TD at the launch of Fine Gael's campaign for a Yes vote in the Children's Referendum
Adams should address Dáíl regarding fresh claims about IRA involvement - Flanagan


Fine Gael National Conference 2013, Limerick
Saturday, 12 October, 2013

Fine Gael in Government is delivering long-awaited reforms in child protection and pre-school services - Fitzgerald
Minister reasserts Fine Gael commitment to early intervention and second free pre-school year
Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Frances Fitzgerald TD, has today (Saturday) told the Fine Gael National Conference in Limerick that 'the reforms being implemented by the Government was putting right Ireland's shameful legacy of failings when it come to protecting and supporting children in Ireland, while also laying solid foundations for future service development for children, young people and families' (full speech to follow).

Pre-School Quality Agenda
The Minister outlined progress in a number of areas, including her Pre-School Quality Agenda, saying 'because of the failures of the previous Fianna Fáil Governments, I had to start from scratch in putting in place the supports and regulatory structures which should have been put in place years ago.

- We have, for the first time, published pre-school inspections reports. Over 1,000 reports are now online;
- We are bringing-in new pre-school laws to establish statutory registration of preschool services and new powers for inspectors to ensure standards are met;
- We will shortly launch New National Pre-School Quality Standards;
- We are increasing the minimum qualification requirements for staff;
- We will establish a national mentoring service'.

Towards a second free pre-school year
Minister Fitzgerald added that improvements in quality were a critical stepping stone on the road to extending childcare provision in Ireland, including the introduction of a second free pre-school year which the Minister has championed and which was further endorsed in the Report of the Expert Advisory Group on the Early Years Strategy published on Thursday.

Commenting on the proposal for a second free pre-school year. Minister Fitzgerald stated: 'It would benefit children's educational and developmental outcomes. It would help children with special needs. It would represent €2,500 to €3,000 worth of free childcare to parents. It could generate 4,000-5,000 new positions'.

"But before we introduce a second year, we must first ensure quality. Improvements in pre-school quality standards and staff qualifications are pivotal, essential, inescapable."

Importance of Early Intervention
The Minister added that a second year would represent a very significant investment in early intervention, of which we need much more. She stated: 'In Ireland, we have so much to gain from early intervention in addressing the major challenges and to interrupt both current and future crises. If we want to improve literacy and numeracy, which is critical, then we must start early. If we want to disrupt the crisis of childhood obesity - a quarter of our three years are overweight or obese - then we must start early. Put simply, investing in the early years is about investing in our future'.

Child Protection
Addressing delegates, Minister Fitzgerald also outlined the major progress made by Fine Gael in Government in the area of child protection in response to decade of failings, as highlighted in numerous reports.

The Minister stated: 'In July 2011, I launched the Children First Guidelines and led a national drive to raise awareness of child protection and the need to report concerns. As a result, in 2012, child protection increased by a nearly a third to over 40,000. That's 40,000 reports of abuse or neglect of children. The reality is that child abuse and neglect hasn't gone away. It doesn't go way. But we are working to respond better to this reality and to protect children'.

" We are leading the most ambitious and comprehensive reform programme ever in the area of child protection:
- We are establishing a dedicated new Child and Family Agency to improve child protection and family support services;
- We have recruited more social workers and we are reforming the way cases are prioritised and managed;
- We are improving standards in child protection services through introducing independent HIQA inspections and oversight;
- We are establishing a much-needed national approach to coordinating sexual assault services for children and young people. Last week I announced eight new posts of regional coordinators to drive progress on this front."

The Minister also said that the new Agency 'while being a child protection authority will also include a greater focus on prevention, early intervention and family support'. The Minister announced that she intends bringing forward amendments later this month to strengthen the legislative underpinning of preventative family support strategies as a central objective of the new Agency.


Fine Gael reaffirms its ambitious growth plan for agriculture in rural Ireland - Coveney
Speaking at the Fine Gael National Conference in Limerick today (Saturday), the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Marine, Simon Coveney TD, reaffirmed Fine Gael's commitment to the rural economy.

"In Government, Fine Gael has prioritised issues which are important to rural Ireland. The past year has seen a lot of progress on key issues fundamental to rural life. We have successfully completed a CAP and CFP in a very ambitious timeframe during the Irish Presidency and have overcome challenges like horsemeat, tough weather conditions and a fodder crisis.

"We are now entering a phase which could potentially be a golden age for Irish farming, with the prospect of quota abolition and a positive outlook for increased exports. The rise in demand for third level agricultural courses is a clear signal of the enthusiasm surrounding the agri-food sector and the increased investment by our largest food companies will provide sustainable jobs for rural communities in the long term.

"Fine Gael will continue to support the rural economy through a new rural development programme, an ambitious strategy on the marine, an innovative CAP and continued focus on the targets to be achieved under the Food Harvest 2020 strategy. Rural Ireland is a vital part of this Government's economic strategy and will be at the centre of our country's recovery."


Exiting the Bailout: A Sustainable Fiscal Strategy for Ireland, by Minister for Finance, Michael Noonan
In 2010, our State lost its sovereignty. We could no longer fund our borrowings from financial markets like fully fledged international States do. We were forced to turn to the international lenders of last resort; the European Union and the International Monetary Fund, for the funding required to pay State pensions, teachers, Guards and the rest of our public services. In order to secure this funding, the Government of the day had to commit to implement an extensive list of Programme of Assistance conditions.

As you all know, during the last election we, in Fine Gael, campaigned to renegotiate the original Programme of Assistance, as we did not agree with many of its elements. In Government, we have successfully achieved this renegotiation. We have made real improvements in key elements of the Programme, such as the interest rates on the EU loans, the maturity of the borrowings, and the elimination of the Promissory Note. These key improvements, together with our strong implementation of the Programme, with over 230 Programme actions implemented to date, have firmly positioned us to exit.

Programme Exit
The Government's focus is now fixed on ensuring our exit from the Programme is successful and durable. Next week's Budget will be vital in positioning us to exit. The Budget will include fiscal targets that will ensure that we can finance the State in the normal manner from financial markets. The Budget will continue the improvement in the public finances by further reducing the deficit towards the 3% target in 2015 and placing the State's debt on a downward trajectory.

For 2014, the Government has agreed that this Budget will bring the deficit down to 4.8% of GDP in 2014. This will be significantly below the 5.1% deficit target. The Government, on my advice, took the view that we needed to have a deficit in the high fours so as to show that a 3% deficit is attainable in 2015 and that we have a sufficient buffer in the event of international shocks. The other reason for a 4.8% deficit is that the Government wants to make sure that the fiscal adjustment is finished by 2015 because the longer the adjustment takes, the greater the uncertainty that will hang over the economy. And uncertainty will cause people to defer investment and spending decisions, which is the last thing we need now that the recovery in the labour force is taking hold. We want people investing and spending now so as to create the economic growth and jobs that are so necessary for the families blighted by unemployment.

To clearly demonstrate that we have the State's debt under control, we will target a small primary surplus, which will put our debt trajectory on a downward path. Primary surpluses are important to financial markets as they show that a country's debt should become a lesser percentage of GDP over time. A primary surplus, when combined with a significant current account surplus, is very important in showing that an economy is generating significant activity through its industries and State sector, to place its debt firmly on a downward debt trajectory. At present, we are in the fortunate position of running a sizeable current account surplus.

The better and more rapid the improvement in our key fiscal measures, such as deficit and debt, the more sustainable our exit from the Programme will be. Also, the more confident our exit, then the lower the risk premium that we will face on our future borrowings. The actions of this Government have dramatically reduced the cost of the State's borrowings already and will keep the costs low in the future. Reducing the cost of servicing our debt is vital if we want to reduce the burden on taxpayers and prioritise funds for public services, as opposed to the non-productive cost of servicing debt.

Exit Strategy
Countries who have exited IMF Programmes have had follow up programmes or backstop arrangements to ensure a return to the markets at very little risk.

Ireland is fortunate that the NTMA has almost €25 billion in cash balances as we return to the market so we have a backstop already in place. When the Budget is concluded I plan to have consultation on our exit strategy with the IMF, the European Commission and the European Central Bank. Having heard their views, I will advise the Government on the best course of action.

Exit Positive for Economic Confidence
I see exit from the bailout as being a really positive development for our economy, both in terms of investor confidence and consumer confidence. It will be a sign to taxpayers and investors that we are now fully in control of our own economic policy and there is no question over the long-term feasibility of our economic, fiscal and taxation policies.

Responsible Politics - Growth and Jobs
However, this reestablished economic independence must be secured with more responsible Government than we saw under the Fianna Fáil Governments. This Government has not shied away from difficult decisions. We have taken responsibility for our decisions and explained them to people as to why we consider them to be in the best interests of our primary objective - the creation of jobs. We will not allow people to present policies that have no basis in reality. If allowed to advocate false policies, with no basis in reality, these false prophets are sowing the seeds of a new crisis for this country. The past three years must serve as a constant reminder of the dangers of economic policies that are not based on real and sustainable economic growth, and sound public finances.

We cannot go back to an economy built on the quicksand of a credit and property bubble. This Government is building an economy that is based on real activity, such as agriculture, tourism, I.T., manufacturing and a normal sized construction sector. The jobs in these sectors are being created by the small and medium sized business owners and entrepreneurs that are prepared to take risks and make investments.

To restore growth in these sectors and throughout the economy, this Government will play its part. We have been willing to try any measures. This willingness to try bold initiatives has led to the significant improvement in the tourism sector through the highly successful Jobs Initiative and its temporary reductions in VAT and employer PRSI. We will continue to pursue any new ideas to reinvigorate other sectors of the economy that require assistance. We will try any measure that can increase the number of jobs and build on the 34,000 increase in the number of people in work that we saw in the last year.

I can assure you that this Budget will include a range of measures to build on the jobs growth that we have seen. We know that strong economic growth and jobs growth are essential to our exit from the bailout.


Minister for Justice, Alan Shatter TD
Garda numbers have fallen in recent years from approximately 14,550 to 13,160 at the end of September 2013. The numbers have reduced due to a combination of retirements and the moratorium on recruitment put in place by the previous Government.

Under the "National Recovery Plan 2011 - 2014" published by the Fianna Fáil / Green Government towards the end of 2010, and agreed with the Troika, the financial arrangements entered into by our predecessors meant that Garda numbers were destined to fall to below 12,000 by 2015.

My objective, despite the enormous financial pressures facing the Government and the disastrous financial legacy inherited from Fianna Fáil, has been to ensure that Garda strength would be preserved at 13,000 and that recruitment would recommence in 2014.

In the context of falling Garda numbers, it was crucial that urgent action was taken to ensure the training and expertise within An Garda Síochána was used to the maximum extent, both in crime prevention and crime detection. The truth, of course, is that no matter how efficient An Garda Síochána is in both the prevention and detection of crime, and no matter how effective our laws, there will always be bad people intent on criminality. It also seems, tragically for this island, we will continue to be plagued by subversives or criminal terrorists who show no respect for human life and who wish to go back to the future and to reignite the troubles that afflicted this island for 30 years.

I want to pay tribute to the brave men and women in An Garda Síochána and the PSNI who cooperate daily and work together in the fight against those who are the enemies of all communities, both North and South, and who have no respect for the democratic will of our people as expressed in their support for the Good Friday Agreement.

In my role as Minister of Defence, I also want to thank the brave men and women in our Defence Forces for the quiet unsung work in which they are engaged, in cooperation with An Garda Síochána, in protecting our State and all of those who live in it. The decision made by us in Government at an early stage in 2011, to preserve the strength of the Defence Forces at 9,500, was a crucial decision to ensure their continuing operational capacity both at home and abroad at a time when that capacity was under threat as a consequence of the deal done by our predecessors in Government with the Troika. Under that deal, Defence Forces could have fallen to less than 8,000 during 2013.

Unfortunately in recent years, the use of improvised explosive devices has migrated from being a weapon of choice used solely by subversives and criminal terrorists to becoming a weapon utilised by criminal gangs which is frequently deployed in their war with each other, posing major risks to the wider community. A total of 96 such devices were neutralised by the Defence Forces in the year ending 31 December 2012 and so far up to the end of September this year, 69 have been neutralised. This work undertaken by a specialised group within the Defence Forces, at the request of An Garda Síochána, is a vital contribution to our national security and to the safety of the public.

Major Achievements in the Fight against Crime
Since becoming Minister for Justice and Equality in 2011, I have overseen the implementation of a major reform agenda to ensure that Garda resources are used to best effect.

The new Garda roster system came into operation in April 2012. This provides a better match between policing demand and the deployment of Gardaí, so Gardaí are now available when most required.

Garda stations were consolidated to take account of today's communications and transport systems, with the result that Gardaí have been released from desk duties into frontline operational policing activities and community policing.

€4m was made available for the purchase of Garda vehicles in 2012, a further €5m was available this year for the purchase and fit-out of Garda vehicles, and I am expecting new financing for Garda vehicles to be shortly announced. This represents a considerable financial investment in Garda transport, at a time when the level of funding available across the public sector is severely limited.

Within four months of assuming office, I published and enacted the Criminal Justice Act 2011 which conferred crucial new powers on the Gardaí to assist in both current and future investigations into alleged white collar crime, and to require individuals who had knowledge relevant to investigations to cooperate. Within days of the Act's commencement, it was successfully used by the Gardai to access vital information.

Garda Districts have been amalgamated so as to provide a more efficient Garda command structure at less cost to the taxpayer.

Operational decisions made by the Garda Commissioner and those working for him have resulted in the targeting of criminal gangs and those engaged in subversive activities, with the result that many have been convicted and sentenced before our courts and are presently in jail.

Effective and courageous policing has ended the stranglehold that criminal gangs exercised over the City of Limerick and removed fear from its streets. The Limerick we see today at this National Conference is a safer place than the Limerick of five years ago. Over 100 members of the eight main Limerick gangs are presently in prison, including 20 who were in leadership positions. Approximately 20 gang members are presently awaiting trial before our courts. It was a great privilege to have the opportunity yesterday to visit Roxboro Garda Station and to thank the Garda members there for the work they have done and continue to do on behalf of the people of Limerick.
While some continue to obsess on the closure of Garda stations, many of which were open for no more than three hours on any day, and seek for their own reasons to stoke public fear, they have failed to focus on the dramatic reduction in crime independently certified by the Central Statistics Office.

The most recently published CSO Crime Statistics detailed a reduction in criminal offences committed across the State of over 20,000 and a reduction in 12 out of the 14 crime categories. This reduction is a result of the implementation of sound Fine Gael policies, our delivering on commitments made in the General Election and of excellent, strategic, smart operational policing directed by a Garda Commissioner who deserves the congratulations of this National Conference for his dedication and commitment, and that of all members of An Garda Síochána.

Apart from the overall reduction in crime, the achievements of An Garda Síochána, and the Revenue, between 2011 and 2013 to date, include:

Responding to incidence of burglaries, the Garda Commissioner introduced Operation Fiacla last year, which targets gangs involved in carrying out burglaries around the country. As at the end of this September, Operation Fiacla has led to 6,678 persons arrested and 3,770 persons charged. CSO Crime Statistics show that Operation Fiacla is having a real impact, with the most recent statistics showing an 8.9% reduction in burglary.

In the fight against crime, crucial reform continues. Only this week, the debate started in Dáil Éireann on the DNA Database Bill which will revolutionise the approach An Garda Síochána can take in the investigation of serious crimes such as homicide, rape, sexual offences, burglary and robbery, and provides them with a crucial new tool that will be of enormous assistance for decades to come. The Forensic Science Laboratory has been furnished with resources for the necessary specialist staff and equipment to ensure the Database is ready for use as soon as the legislation comes into force.

Work is practically complete on the preparation of a comprehensive new draft Sexual Offences Bill which will provide for many important reforms to this area of our law. It is crucial that we have the maximum protections in place to protect the wider community, including our children, from sexual predators and that all necessary care is taken to ensure those who have been the victims of rape, sexual assault and sexual abuse are treated with insight and sensitivity by the legal system following the trauma they have suffered. I hope to publish this draft legislation in November.

The good news is that the Cabinet in July agreed to my proposal to recommence Garda recruitment. We will commence recruitment next year, and I expect we will see by the summer of 2014 the first new intake of recruits into An Garda Síochána since the Fianna Fáil / Green Government put a stop on recruitment in 2009.

It is also important that we recognise the invaluable work that is carried out in partnership between the Gardaí and communities throughout the country. In January of this year, I was pleased to participate with the Garda Commissioner in the launch of new Garda "Community Crime Prevention Guidelines", which contain advice for those wishing to set up Community Alert, Neighbourhood Watch or similar groups, and the support which local community Gardaí can provide. A new Garda Text Alert Scheme has also recently been launched, with the support of Munitir na Tíre, Neighbourhood Watch and the Irish Famers Association. This provides another mechanism by which the Gardaí can share crime prevention advice and information with the community and was very well received during its pilot phase.

Despite the disastrous legacy inherited from our predecessors in Government, our Government has managed to stay overall within budget, to keep Garda numbers higher than was planned by Fianna Fáil, and to implement, in just over two years, more reforms than implemented by our predecessors in Government under Fianna Fáil leadership for 14 years. It is also important that we acknowledge the voluntary contribution of the men and women of the Garda Reserve in assisting the Garda force with community policing and other important duties. I am pleased that membership of the Garda Reserve continues to grow and we should thank the members of the Reserve for the contribution they are making to the local community.

In conclusion, as Minister for Justice, I think it is right that I say we should all take great pride in the achievements of An Garda Síochána in recent years. Like any large body, there will always be a small number of individuals who fail to live up to the standards expected of them and there will always be some issues that give rise to difficulty and controversy, and it is important that the rules and regulations and principles which apply to policing in this State and which are in the public interest are observed.

In thanking An Garda Síochána, I also want to thank the Garda Inspectorate and the Garda Ombudsman for the important oversight roles they play and the important contribution they make to ensure good policing.

Overall the Gardaí do one hell of a job. I believe it is unfortunate that a small group of politicians in Leinster House with great regularity obsessively denigrate the Garda Force, do everything possible to undermine public confidence in it, and are incapable of acknowledging the enormous successes achieved and the courage displayed by members of the Force when confronted by evil and violent offenders including subversives.

As Minister for Justice, I make no excuse for defending the Force from unjustified attacks from those who want to build political careers by criticising the work done by men and women dedicated to their public duties. Let no one also be in any doubt that where issues arise of public concern, I will always ensure that they are addressed in an appropriate manner in the public interest.

Real progess being made in delivering a health service worthy of the people - Reilly
Speaking this afternoon (Saturday) at the Fine Gael National Conference in Limerick, the Minister for Health, Dr. James Reilly TD, said that the status quo of how our healthcare system was being run was simply not acceptable and pointed toward the progress being made in the area of health to deliver a healthcare system worthy of the Irish people.

"Our health system has evolved in such a chaotic manner with the result that it has failed our citizens on too many occasions. As Minister for Health, I am committed to fundamentally reforming our health system and creating a genuine, patient-centered model of healthcare for the future. Our health system has been fixated on measuring inputs - the number of beds, the number of procedures, the hours worked, with not enough of a focus on what matters most: making sure patients get the safe, quality care they need, when they need it.

"We are operating under very difficult circumstances which have seen a 20% reduction in the health budget, a 10% reduction in staff numbers, an 8% increase in our population and a 3% increase in admission to A&E, but despite these very difficult circumstances, we are making progress and will continue to do so.

"In terms of waiting lists, when this Government took office, we did not know how many patients were waiting unacceptable lengths of time for outpatient appointments. A waiting list did not even exist. When we grasped this nettle, the figures were shocking. Almost 8,000 patients were waiting over 4 years for an appointment last March. This waiting list has been reduced by 75% in just six months. Local hospitals have seen even greater progress because they have been working as part of a pilot hospital group and here in Limerick, the number of people waiting over four years for an outpatient appointment has been reduced by 92% in Dooradoyle and by 98% in Croom. This is a sign of things to come when all hospitals in the country are working as part of hospital group and our target is that no patient should be waiting more than a year for an outpatient procedure by the end of the year.

"Where the funding is concerned, the Money Follows The Patient model has proven to reduce waiting lists further. A pilot project for hip and knee procedures resulted in a 45% increase in day surgery admissions and a two day reduction in patients' average length of stay. This kind of impact will be huge in terms of bed days saved and avoiding inconvenience for patients. An independent international expert is close to finalising a 'state of readiness' review for the roll-out of Money Follows the Patient across our hospitals, and a phased implementation of this funding will begin early next year.

"I came into politics to do one thing; to create a health system that truly puts the patient at its centre and where everyone is treated on the basis of medical need not on the basis of what they can afford. We're not there yet - far from it - but there is indeed light at the end of the tunnel. We have made real progress. And we will continue along that path."


An Taoiseach, Enda Kenny TD, at the FG National Conference
This item is published exactly as received
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 very best.

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 Fá il'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 sustainablearrangements 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 as possible.

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 knowwe 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.


Sunday, November 25th 2012
Kerry priest wrong to criticise Taoiseach's attendance at Monsignor O'Flaherty memorial event - Coghlan
Fine Gael Kerry Senator and Seanad Chief Whip, Paul Coghlan, has today (Sunday) said that a Kerry priest was wrong to criticise the attendance of the Taoiseach at the annual O'Flaherty Memorial Weekend in Killarney. The Taoiseach was the keynote speaker at the event, which honours World War Two cleric Monsignor Hugh O'Flaherty.

"I was somewhat surprised to learn of the comments of Fr Kevin McNamara, who described the Taoiseach's attendance at the event as 'inappropriate' in light of his speech about the Vatican last year. Fr McNamara is incorrect in this assertion, and in his assertion that the Government has broken off diplomatic links with the Vatican.

"Fr McNamara is a very good priest, but he has clearly misunderstood this situation entirely. The O'Flaherty Memorial Weekend was an extremely positive event. I know that the Taoiseach has tremendous admiration for the work carried out by Monsignor O'Flaherty in wartime Rome in the 1940s. This was clearly evident to anyone who attended the event and listened to the Taoiseach's passionate speech, which received a huge round of applause. The Taoiseach posthumously honoured Monsignor O'Flaherty with care and compassion.

"This Government retains strong links with the Vatican. David Cooney, the Secretary General of the Department of Foreign Affairs, is serving as our ambassador to the Vatican, and I know that quiet diplomacy is on-going between Mr Cooney and Archbishop Charles Brown, the Papal Nuncio, who also attended the memorial event. Furthermore, it is clear that the Taoiseach and Archbishop Brown enjoy a very good relationship, and they welcomed each other warmly at the event.

"Fr McNamara said it was inappropriate for the Taoiseach to honour Monsignor O'Flaherty; however other countries have honoured him, and it was entirely appropriate for the Taoiseach to do so as Irish leader. In his speech to the Dáil last year, the Taoiseach criticised the tiny minority within the Church who abused their positions and wreaked havoc as a result. This is a view that has been widely supported by a number of senior Church figures.

"The decision to invite the Taoiseach, the Papal Nuncio and the British Ambassador to Ireland, Dominic Chilcott, to the O'Flaherty Memorial event was taken unanimously by the organising committee, and all three were tremendously well received by all in attendance."


Monday, October 29th 2012
Healy Eames urges Minister Rabbitte to ensure Cyber bullying is urgently tackled
Fine Gael Senator for Galway West, Fidelma Healy Eames, is today (Monday) urging Minister Rabbitte to urgently address the frightening increase in cases of cyber bullying which has seen two teenagers die over the last few weeks in this State.

"I was shocked to hear of another case of a vulnerable teenager die as a result of being tormented by cyber bullys. Bullying in general has been on the increase for a number of years, but with easy access to the internet and numerous methods of communicating over social media available, we have to immediately take steps to tackle the frightening increase in cyber bullying that is taking place right across the country. There has to be appropriate regulation that will be effective across borders.

"I am urging the Minister for Communications, Pat Rabbitte, to urgently investigate how we can go about tackling this serious problem in Ireland and to liaise with ministerial colleagues across Europe to do the same. At a minimum, we should regulate so that no one is allowed post or tweet anonymously. In every case, a person's identity must be accessible.

"With such easy access to the internet, we have no idea how many cases of cyber bullying are taking place on a daily basis. While parents are doing their best to monitor their child's internet access, it is simply not enough. Parents and children need help. We need to investigate other ways of controlling anonymous users online who hide behind the internet to bully vulnerable young people in this country."


Monday, October 29th 2012
Public Accounts Committee must investigate & scrutinise Irish overseas aid in light of misappropriation - Harris
Member of the Dáil's Public Accounts Committee (PAC) and Fine Gael TD for Wicklow, Simon Harris, has today (Monday) called for a special meeting of PAC to be convened to deal with how Irish overseas aid is being spent and what checks and balances are in place to ensure taxpayer's money sent overseas is being utilised as intended.

Deputy Harris called for this investigation and public scrutiny by the Committee after the revelations that Irish Aid funding was misappropriated in Uganda.

"This afternoon, I have written to the Chairperson of the Public Accounts Committee and the Clerk of the Committee seeking special hearings by the Public Accounts Committee into this issue.

"Ireland and Irish taxpayers have continued to support overseas aid projects despite the economic difficulties in our own country. It is absolutely essential that these funds are spent correctly, arrive in the destination they are intended to and that the State has the appropriate checks and balances in place to ensure that this happens.

"It is vital that Irish people can continue to have confidence in our overseas aid projects. There is no doubt that this confidence has been shaken in the last few days. We need answers and assurances. We need the PAC to call before it all the appropriate officials as quickly as possible so we can get to the bottom of this and, in a public session, provide answers on this important matter."


Monday, October 15th 2012
An Taoiseach Enda Kenny TD launches FG Campaign for a Yes vote in the Children's Referendum
An Taoiseach, Enda Kenny TD, this afternoon (Monday) launched the Fine Gael campaign for a Yes Vote in the Children's Referendum on Saturday, November 10th in the Ark, Temple Bar. The event was also addressed by Fine Gael's Director of Elections for the Children's Referendum Campaign, Minister Leo Varadkar TD; Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Frances Fitzgerald TD, and the Minister for Justice, Alan Shatter TD. Foster parent, Jim Daly TD, and former foster child, Wayne Dignam, also spoke about their personal experiences.

Speaking at the event, An Taoiseach, Enda Kenny TD, said: 'On November 10th, the Irish people can go to the polls and make history. They can ensure that for the first time that the Constitution of this Republic will recognise children as citizens in their own right. As Taoiseach and as a father I'm asking people to do exactly that; to come out in force and vote Yes. This Referendum is about giving children a chance; a second chance. It is about putting children at the heart of vital legislation, legislation that will make life so much better and so much safer for so many children'.

"This proposed amendment to the Constitution does not give power away. It proposes to use power - always ethically, professionally and justly - to protect and uphold the rights, the safety, the dignity and innocence of children. Parents across the country know that innocence is something that we value and protect and guard with our lives. But a small minority of children do not know such love, such devotion, such security. They live broken, frightening lives, often silent and silenced by the very fact that they are just that; children. It is these vulnerable boys and girls who will be helped and supported and nourished by this proposed amendment."

Minister Fitzgerald said: 'This Referendum is about protecting children from abuse and neglect. It's about supporting families by re-affirming and underpinning early intervention and family support services, to protect children in their homes. It's about treating all children equally, in particular by removing inequalities in adoption. It's about recognising children in their own right. Ultimately it's about Children; because Every Child Matters. Saturday is very busy day for many. But I hope as a nation we will all find time to cast our vote in this Referendum and I would call on all in our Party to help get the vote out on Saturday 10th November'.

Minister Shatter said: 'We have had a continuous stream of expert reports calling for constitutional change to expressly recognise the rights of the child and to constitutionally prescribe that the best interests of the child should be the paramount consideration in the resolution of conflicts concerning the guardianship, custody of or access to children and where there is a need for the State to intervene to protect the safety or welfare of any child. Much has also been written about giving children who are destined to spend most of their childhood in care the opportunity of being adopted either by their foster parents or by others properly assessed as prospective adopters. This Referendum proposal addresses all of these issues'.

Fine Gael's Director of Elections for the Referendum Campaign, Leo Varadkar TD said: 'As Director of Elections, I am heading up a national information campaign to make sure that people right across Ireland understand the importance of amending the Constitution to protect children. Fine Gael is mobilising its entire Party organisation to run an extensive campaign between now and polling day on Saturday, November 10th. We want to speak to as many people as possible about why we need this Referendum to enshrine children's rights in our Constitution'.

Wayne Dignam, who grew up in State care and is now a board member of the Irish Foster Care Association, spoke at the event about his own experience: 'I was born into a difficult family situation as my parents could not look after me. Due to exceptional circumstances, I was first taken into State care when I was three. By the time I was eight I had lived in various foster homes and residential homes. In spite being in need of protection from the State, I was continually brought back to my family to unsafe and difficult circumstances, because the law said that I had fewer rights than my parents. The law presumed my best interests were always within my family, despite the very clear evidence to the contrary. For too long, various strands of society have turned a blind eye to this issue. Let's start the change from November 10th by voting Yes for our children and future children of this country'


Monday, October 15th 2012
Minister Frances Fitzgerald TD at the launch of Fine Gael's campaign for a Yes vote in the Children's Referendum
Last year Fine Gael entered government with our partners in the Labour Party on a promise of action.

And that's what we've been doing…

Action to rebuild Ireland's international reputation….
Action to create jobs…
Action on hospital waiting lists…

And action on Children…
Because it was needed.
Absolutely needed.

We have had 17 major reports on child protection failings in Ireland in recent years.

A catalogue of shame.

But we must not allow these horrors to be relegated to the distant past.

In 2011 there were over 36,000 child abuse or welfare concerns referrals to the services. For the first time, over half of these were abuse concerns.

Child protection concerns haven't suddenly gone away.
The sad reality is that they never probably will.

But that doesn't mean we shouldn't do all we possibly can to protect children.
That's why we should vote Yes on Saturday November 10th when, after 19 years of talk, the Children's Referendum is finally held

A Referendum which is about protecting children from abuse and neglect.

It's about supporting families by re-affirming and underpinning early intervention and family support services, to protect children in their homes.

It's about treating all children equally, in particular by removing inequalities in adoption

It's about recognising children in their own right.

Ultimately it's about Children; because Every Child Matters.

But this Referendum isn't just symbolic.

It is about real change; practical change; such as providing for the first time, an express statement of the rights of all children.

Another practical change will be to make it mandatory for the Oireachtas to legislate to lay down a strong imperative that the child's best interests are paramount and child's view are ascertained in critical court proceeding affecting them

This Referendum proposes further practical change; which will make a real and tangible difference for many children.

We all know that children are best protected and reared by their families. There is no doubt about that. But for a small number of children, what happens in their families can be a serious threat to the child's safety and welfare.
This Referendum WILL strengthen child protection:
by placing the protection of children at the centre of decision-making;
by focussing on the effect of parental failure on the child rather than the reasons for the failure;
and by ensuring that children will never agin be invisible in court proceedings on issues as basic as their very protection.

85% of non-voluntary admissions to care are because of abuse, neglect or serious family problems.

For these children, it is only right that they be offered a second chance at family life.

We are so fortunate in this county that over 91% of all children in care are living with a foster family… and we are fortunate that we have so many foster carers willing to open their door to children in need of a second chance at family life.

So already, in this country, when we talk about care; the focus is very much on family care.

This Referendum supports that principle of family care.

There are over 2,000 children who have been living with the same foster family for over five years. Not all of these children would want to be adopted or indeed because of their family circumstances be suitable for adoption. However, in each of 2011 & 2010, only 16 children in foster care were adopted.

Why so low a figure?

Because under the current Constitution the threshold for abandonment is too high.
Because under the current Constitution children can be treated differently on the basis of their parent's marital status.

Imagine, for some young people, the day they blew out the candles on their eighteenth birthday cake they were denied of their chance to become an official part of their foster family.

That's what happens.

This Referendum seeks to bring this to an end to this and will give children in foster care a better opportunity of being adopted. This is a very real, practical chance, one which I believe the country will support.

Of course, this Referendum won't solve all our problems. There will be many challenges ahead, in particular in transforming services and building the culture of early intervention which we need to build.

But this Referendum matters.
Because Every Child Matters

But they don't get to decide. We do.
It's about them, but it's up to us.

I welcome the broad political support to date, from all parties and indeed independents - all backing this Referendum.

I also welcome the support of those NGO's and those who know the child projection system best; and who work it ever day.

I have always said: I want an informed debate. I want an engaging debate
To date, it is fair to say that we haven't had the cut-and-thrust of the type of Referendum debate that we have been used to in this country.

I hope that the lack of coverage to date will not translate in to a lack of awareness of the fact we are having a referendum and the importance of why we are having it.

There's one way of ensuring it doesn't.

As the sponsoring Minster for this Referendum; as a Fine Gael Minister; I am calling on my fellow party members: Ministers, TD's, Senators, MEPs, councillors and branch members to join with me in knocking on doors; canvassing at shopping centres; organising public meetings; quiet simply doing whatever we can to inform; and engage; and win this Referendum.

I wish to commend and sincerely thank our National Director Minister Leo Varadkar on putting together a comprehensive and dynamic campaign plan. I wish to thank all who have taken on tasks and roles of responsibility in this campaign.

I know with your hard work and commitment, together we can prevail on Saturday 10th November.

Saturday is very busy day for many. But I hope as a nation we will all find time to cast our vote in this Referendum and I would call on all in our Party to help get the vote out on Saturday 10th November,

Every Child Matters.

On Saturday November 10th, it will be about them but it's up to us.

Let's not let them down.


Monday, October 15th 2012
Minister for Justice, Alan Shatter TD at the launch of Fine Gael's campaign for a Yes vote in the Children's Referendum
A Resounding Yes Vote in Children's Rights Referendum will usher in a new era for children says Shatter

Speaking at the official launch of the Fine Gael Children's Referendum Campaign the Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence, Alan Shatter TD, said "We have come through two decades of shocking revelations about children - their physical and sexual abuse and neglect, failures of church and State and legal confusion as to the importance to be attached to child welfare when serious issues arise over a child's future or children at risk.

"We have seen confusion within state agencies concerning the impact of our current constitutional provisions when issues or disputes arise relating to child protection. Despite the enactment in 1987 of the Status of Children Act to abolish the concept of illegitimacy, because of the constitutional protection afforded to the marital family, we have continued to constitutionally distinguish between children born within and outside marriage.

"In our care system we have over 2,000 children in long term foster care (that is, for in excess of 5 years) many with no real prospect of being properly cared for in the future by their biological parents or a parent and our Constitution denies to them the opportunity to be adopted and experience a legally secure family life.

"We have seen varied judicial approaches in our courts to the issue of children's rights and the weight to be attached to such rights and to a child's welfare when crucial decisions are being made about a child's future.

"We have also seen children but not adequately listened to them, valued and attached weight to what they have to say and then properly assessed its implications in the context of their age and circumstances with regard to their present or future welfare.

"We have also had a continuous stream of expert reports calling for constitutional change to expressly recognise the rights of the child and to constitutionally prescribe that the best interests of the child should be the paramount consideration in the resolution of conflicts concerning the guardianship, custody of or access to children and where there is a need for the State to intervene to protect the safety or welfare of any child.

"Much has also been written about giving children who are destined to spend most of their childhood in care the opportunity of being adopted either by their foster parents or by others properly assessed as prospective adopters.

"This Referendum proposal addresses all of these issues. It affords express constitutional recognition to children's rights.

"In exceptional cases, where parents fail in their duties to their children to the extent that their safety or welfare is likely to be prejudicially affected, it provides for the State to take such proportionate action as is required by way of child protection. It ensures no difference in treatment as between marital and non marital children and prescribes that the best interests of the child is the paramount consideration in determining disputes with regard to the guardianship, custody of or access to children and in the area of child protection.

"What this amendment does is recognise a child's individual humanity as a person whilst also respecting family rights. In doing so, it also requires that children be heard, their views ascertained and given due weight, where a child is capable of forming his or her own views. In recognising a child's individual humanity it also seeks to ensure that children in long term foster care may be adopted.

"At a time of economic difficulty, this Referendum gives all of us an opportunity to proclaim as a nation that we truly value our children, that we want a legal framework that affords to the minority of children who require it, the maximum protection possible whilst also recognising that for the vast majority of children, it is their parents who are the best carers.

"A YES vote is a vote for today's children, our grandchildren and the children of future generations. A resounding yes vote will say something very important about our values as a nation, the extent to which we value children in this 21 Century and the recognition given by us to the importance of ushering in a new era. It will provide the essential constitutional architecture to support the Government's crucial reform agenda in the area of children's law and services. A yes vote is also the right response to the cries of the children we have failed in the past and to the adults who either refused to listen to them or turned away from them. A yes vote will support the essential principle that children must be both seen and heard."


Monday, October 15th 2012
Comments by Jim Daly TD at the launch of Fine Gael's campaign for a Yes vote in the Children's Referendum
I can understand how for decades Governments have neglected to bring this referendum before the people.

Being a father to my own four children, growing up one of eleven children, or the experience of having taught hundreds of children as a primary school teacher have added absolutely nothing to my appreciation for this referendum.

We are one of the families in this country who are extremely fortunate to be sharing our home with children who for a variety of reasons cannot stay in their own homes. It is only through our dealings as a foster family that I have come to realise how the current legal system underpinned by the Constitution has let down some of our most needy and vulnerable children. In our own experiences we have been utterly frustrated to witness legal interpretation and argument supersede the rights of the child being placed in care. I believe when passed this Referendum will give long overdue constitutional strength to existing and planned legislation to allow for real and secure attachments to be formed by children in loving homes throughout Ireland for generations to come.

Opponents of this referendum will speak about children being taken against their will in to state care. They will then proceed to present the state as this big bad and dark monster.

But what do we mean when we refer to children in the care of the State?

Children coming in to care are placed in families throughout the country, families that offer a safe and secure environment for the child to become part of the hurly burly and everyday dramas of normal family life.

Six o'clock every evening is a very busy and loud time in my house as the kids gather around the table to chat and argue the events of the day while eating their supper. This daily gathering is followed by bath time and then in their pyjamas; each child gathers up his or her favourite teddy and snuggles up on the couch for a bed time story before heading off to their warm beds.

This is what it is like to live in state care, not just in my home but in hundreds of homes throughout Ireland tonight and every night.

This Referendum will have no impact on the quality of life for over 99% of the children of this state. But for that group of children who cannot stay in their own family home tonight, the passing of this Referendum will offer so much opportunity for them to develop loving and secure attachments in new homes across this country.

I cannot detail my experiences of fostering here today but I can promise you that when these children become real living persons in your life, your heart breaks and aches in equal measure to ensure that they get the very best opportunities in life. The present constitutional weakness has for far too long hindered the best outcomes for these most vulnerable children. As a society we must take a stand on November 10th and vote Yes - Yes to a better and brighter tomorrow.

The wrongs of the past; we as a society must never forget

But we can do so much more than just merely regret

In this Referendum

Each one of us can become a voice for those who have none;

By ensuring the welfare of these children is priority number one.


Monday, September 24th 2012
Adams should address Dáíl regarding fresh claims about IRA involvement - Flanagan
Fine Gael TD for Laois / Offaly, Charlie Flanagan, has today (Monday) called on Sinn Féin President, Gerry Adams, to clarify his position to the Dáil in relation to claims by Delours Price that he was personally involved in IRA bombings and executions.

"I am calling on Gerry Adams to address the Dáil this week to clarify claims made by Delours Price, a convicted IRA bomber, that he was personally involved in IRA bombings and executions.

"In his capacity as leader of a Dáil group and President of Sinn Féin, the onus is on Deputy Adams to address the Assembly given the seriousness of these claims. The people of this country have a right to know if there is any truth whatsoever to these allegations.

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