ONE IRELAND: Gilmore addresses Labour Conference
17 April 2010
Nature has given us a beautiful homeland.
Our bright and resourceful people, for generations, have worked hard to set it free and make it prosper.
Is cuis broid, gaisci ar laochra in ealaoin, litriocht, ceol agus spoirt.
Ireland is a great country.
But our country has been laid low by the reckless actions of a feckless few.
On this Spring evening, Ireland lies wounded. Injured by greed. Emotionally drained because the very institutions which were trusted by most, have let us all down so badly.
It is now personal. The job losses, the business failures, the mortgage defaults, the cutbacks are no longer just items on the nine o clock news. They are in our own families, among our own neighbours and within our own circle of friends.
We worry. Mostly about what the future holds for our children. Can we afford their education? Will they get a job? Will they too have to emigrate like the generations before?
At times, we feel we are beginning to cope. With reduced incomes. With the uncertain future. Learning to adapt to life in a recession. Coming to terms with it. And then we hear of yet another scandal. Another dark secret from the past. Still more of our hard earned taxes going to bail out a broken bank. And we get angry all over again.
It has to change.
We could spend all night complaining about why and how it happened.
How greed was allowed to win out over the generous instincts of the Irish people. Why self-interest was promoted over our natural inclination for friendship and working together.
How an arrogant, and inside, clique hijacked our country.
But that gets us nowhere. We have to change it, and make up our minds to stay focussed and determined to do so. To help Ireland recover. To take back ownership of our country. To secure the future for our children. To make sure it never happens again.
Change is never easy. Just ask anyone tonight, whose world has been turned over by the loss of a job or a business, or by huge cuts in income.
But the one place where change has not happened, and where it needs to happen most, is at the top. In the Government.
Brian Cowen and Fianna Fail think they can stay in office for another two years. Just think about it: For the next two years, while families are suffering from their cutbacks, and businesses are struggling to rebuild, and workers are trying to hold on to their jobs, and those out of work and graduates coming out of college are trying to find their first job, this country is to stay handicapped, with a clapped out government that is now more concerned with restoring its own political fortunes than with recovering prosperity for the people.
After all that has happened, and the high price we have all had to pay for it, they still insist that they are the ones who are always right. That nobody but them can govern the country. How more arrogant can they get? They need to be taught a very simple lesson by the Irish people. Fianna Fail do not own this country and they do not have a monopoly on governing it.
At the end of the day, a country is not a government, or a political party, or a Church, or a bank or any other institution. A country is its people. Its people and the values they hold to. It is time to take back our country and to get rid of Fianna Fail.
But the political change we need now, is not just from one crowd to the other crowd. Not just a swap of faces or of political affiliation around the cabinet table. We need change that is deeper and different.
We need a Government that is not, content to work a broken system, but a Government that will change the way the system works, and be prepared to change the system itself if necessary.
A government that will lead the change that has already begun, in people's lives and in the way we all see the world differently since the recession:
That prosperity should be sustainable. That we have to work with each other. Le chéile. One Ireland. That human values are more important than economic prices. That Jobs and Reform and Fairness must be the guiding markers for the next Government.
The Labour Party is offering to lead the next Government.
I say "offering", because in a democracy, to govern, is to serve the people, not rule over them. And because we have to travel a difficult journey to recovery, more than ever we need to trust those who are leading us on that road, that they share our values and decent instincts and that they themselves know something of hard times.
Everything in the history and the DNA of the Labour Party, and in our collective and personal life experiences has readied us for this challenge.
Smaoinim ar mo shaol fein. Ag fas suas anseo i nGaillimh. Na deacrachtai a bhi againn. An cruacht agus fuacht a bhain leis an bochtanas. Ach an saoirse a thug an oideachas duinn. An misneach a mhothaigh me o mo mhuintir agus mo mhuinteoiri. Taithi an saol a d'fhoghlaim me o bheith ag obair taobh le le taobh le daoine oga, agus le noibri chun a gcearta a chruthu. An gra agus an dochas a thagann le togail clainne. An sasamh oibre agus an onoir bheith i mbun saothar an phobail.
Agus is amhlaigh an sceal, is docha, le chule dhuine sa halla seo anocht. Sea tamar re. Ta an Lucht Oibre re dul i gceannas na tire agus dul i ngleic leis na fadhbanna mora ata fagtha duinn agus an dushlann deacair ata amach romhainn uilig.
For 10 decades Labour has served our country with integrity. Working with our fellow citizens in homes, in communities, in places of employment to make this a better country.
Ninety two years ago, Labour stood aside, so that our country could be freed and made independent from a foreign power. Today, Labour steps forward, now ready to lead, so that Ireland can be liberated again, this time from the treachery of the insiders who have squandered our prosperity, wasted our opportunities and put our futures at risk.
Let me be bluntly clear about this. Our objective at the next election, whenever it is held, is a new Government, led by Labour.
I am determined, that at the coming General Election, the Labour Party will run enough candidates, to enable the Irish people to make Labour the largest party in the next Dail, and to lead the next Government.
Yes, I understand, only too well, the height of that target, the size of that task. But our country is broken. The exchequer is broke. The banks are broke. And too many families are broke. We have to fix it.
All over this country people are hungry for change. Change they can trust. Labour's offer to lead the next Government is no longer a distant political ambition, and it is certainly not a personal one! It is now our responsibility and our duty. So that all the people who want real change, and a clear break with the political past, can have it. We can do something that has never been done in Ireland before; we can elect, for the first time, a Government led by Labour, committed to getting people back to work, to reforming the way our country is run and governing fairly in the interests of all the people.
And to those who doubt if that is possible, and who still view politics through the prism of the past, let me offer them the words of Robert Kennedy "I dream of things that never were and say why not".
A new Government, led by Labour, will waste no time, getting our country back to work, reforming the way it works and putting an end to 'working the system'.
Labour is the party of work. And jobs are what will rescue our country from the depths of this recession.
As part of our jobs strategy, Labour will take 2 billion euro from the Pension Reserve Fund and establish a Strategic Investment Bank that will put €20billion Euro to work in our economy. The new Bank will have a joined up approach, providing finance for innovative companies and small firms, that are the backbone of this economy, but also helping to finance the infrastructure that they need to succeed.
Investment in networks like renewable energy, next generation communications, smart grids. Creating the environment for a new wave of Irish companies, that can seize the opportunities of a new world economy.
In our first Budget, Labour will establish a dedicated Jobs Fund, to finance measures that create and support employment.
Such as a PRSI break for companies that create new jobs.
Such as more direct support to firms for research and marketing development.
Moving ahead with projects such as school buildings, that are ready to go.
Driving ahead our plan to promote building insulation so we can create jobs, lower fuel bills and cut emissions at the same time.
It is morally wrong, economically unsustainable, and socially unacceptable to have 435,000 people on the live register. One in every three young men under 25 in the workforce are on the dole. Labour in Government will provide hope and opportunity for all those who have no work.
Labour's jobs fund would finance an 'Earn and Learn Scheme' that keeps people in employment while upskilling.
Labour's Graduate and Apprentice Programme will provide work experience for 30,000 young people - to break the cycle where you can't get a job without experience and you can't get experience without a job.
Labour will reform the system to make it easier for people to come off the live register and into education and self-employment. Nobody who wants to use their time productively and to improve themselves should be forced into idleness because of a few bureaucratic rules.
Labour will set up a tax-back scheme to fund full-time study.
'Skills Exchanges' to help maximise the expertise available for retraining.
These are just some of the things that we can do, if we use the resources that we have effectively.
And we need to make more of our natural resources. Developing farming and the food industries; harvesting the seas around us for wind and wave energy; rebuilding our tourism product around a cleaned up environment and an enhanced cultural industry. There is no shortage of ideas. What is missing is energy and will. We need a 'can do' Government, not a 'can't be bothered' Government.
And all of this has to be linked to a vision of what type of economy we want to become. We have to stop lurching from one crisis to the next, held to ransom by gamblers and quick buck merchants. That is the past. Our future lies at the cutting edge of the new international economy.
In today's world, economic growth is driven by people, by knowledge and by trade. New technologies are emerging that are creating new products and new markets, including the drive for clean energy sources. The powerhouses of tomorrow's global economy are now to be found in Asia and Latin America.
The kernel of this new knowledge economy, is investing in people. In their skills and their knowledge. You can't succeed in the knowledge economy when one in three children are leaving some schools unable to read. You can't compete in a knowledge economy unless you are at the top end for the teaching and learning of maths and science. Irish children are just as bright and capable as children anywhere in the world. It's the system we have to change. New ways of teaching. Early intervention for those who need more help.
Not just a commitment, not just a policy, but a national passion, a matter of honour, that in this country, every child will have the right to read.
And that we will be known across the world not alone for our poets and story tellers but for our scientists and engineers too!
We have had enough bad investment in property. Its time for some good investment in people!
That too, means investing in our health. We have great doctors, nurses, health workers, all trapped in a failing system.
It is almost ten years since Labour first proposed a new way to organise and fund the health service. It would bring together the resources already being used in a more focused, intelligent and fairer way. Making sure that money follows the patient. And that medical need and not money decides who is the patient in the first place. We called it Universal Health Insurance.
Fianna Fáil rejected it. They said it would be too bureaucratic. Instead, they created - The HSE.
They said it would cost too much. But ten years and ten billion Euros later, more and more people are now coming around to Labour's plan, including last week, the Irish Medical Organisation. I welcome all that, but what is really needed is to turn the ideas into practice and a better health service and better hospitals for patients. And if we can solve the problems in our own health system, and find the best ways of dealing with and treating the conditions of these times then can we not develop those solutions as services with economic and export potential? Turning a challenge in health into an opportunity to grow businesses and jobs.
Health is not the only service overdue for reform. Ireland as a country needs radical reform. Reform in our public services, so that they work better for the people they are meant to serve.
Reform is not just about cutting costs and it certainly is not about destroying the very service you want to reform.
Labour believes in good public services. Labour respects public servants. We want public service reform, so that the services remain and are improved and that the public service is a good place in which to work.
In Government, Labour will establish a Department for Public Service Reform, to get on with the job, rather than just talk about it.
Labour's approach to reform is not confined to the public service. Remember it was not the teachers or the Gardai or the Council workers who caused the banking crisis and the failures in Corporate Ireland. We need reform too in the way Irish business works and Labour will therefore legislate to put an end to the culture of crony capitalism.
Clearing out the boards of the banks, regulating lobbyists, protecting whistleblowers, breaking the link between big money and politics.
And in politics too we need to modernise the way our country is governed. Within weeks of being elected, a Labour-led Government will introduce the overdue reforms which will make our Parliament belong more to the 21st Century than the 19th, and we will start the process of devolving real power and responsibility to Local Democracy to enable people and local communities reconnect with democratic decision making.
But we need to go further.
We need, as a people, to consider and shape how we are going to order our affairs for the next two generations or more. What political institutions we will need in this new century. How they should be elected. To what extent they should be local or national. How they should relate to the civil service and the public service, and to Europe. How we can have effective regulation and law enforcement. How our democracy can develop and endure.
It is time, in my view, for a fundamental review of our constitution. There is much about the constitution that has served us well, but it is document written in the 1930s for the 1930s. A time when one church was considered to have a special position, and women were considered to be second class citizens. And if we are to truly learn from the experience of the last ten years, then we need to look again, in a considered way, at the fundamental rules that bind us together.
Our constitution belongs to the people, not just to political institutions. So, this must be a people's process.
What I propose is a constitutional convention. A coming together of all strands of Irish society to redraw our Constitution.
The constitutional convention would include experts and specialists, but would also include individual citizens, randomly chosen to serve in much the same way that we choose juries.
Charged with the task of keeping what is best in our constitutional tradition, and to develop a new constitution, fitted to our times and our aspirations. Let us set ourselves the target to have it ready for the 100th anniversary of the 1916 rising, that seminal moment when our state was conceived.
Ours is the history of a people, driven, in each generation, to shape their own future. Now, once again, in this generation, we should have the confidence, the determination, the imagination, to take control of our own destiny, and to shape our country and our future.
The journey we face now, won't be easy. It is the road to economic recovery, through the challenging terrain of reform, a journey to deliver our children safely to a secure and sustainable future.
This is a journey that we must travel together. As One Ireland. Our nation is too small, and the crisis and dangers we face are too great, for solo-runs or for putting sectional interest before the common good. This is not the time for division and conflict. This is the moment when we must all pull together. Le Cheile! Fis, Forbairt is Fostaiocht!
And the Ireland we will build will be rooted in Fairness, in every strand of life and in every way we do our business.
One Ireland. Of Women and men. Old and Young. Gay and straight. All equal.
One Ireland. Of Employers and employees. Farmers and business people. Private sector and public sector. Working in the home and volunteering in the community. We all make our contribution and we should all be treated fairly. Giving according to our means. Receiving according to our needs.
One Ireland. Of different nationalities, of diverse religions and of no religion. It does not matter whence we came or when we came. Ireland is our common homeland now. The land for all our children.
One Ireland. An Ireland of equals.
Two simple words. The mission of the Labour Party. The end and the means. Le chéile. One Ireland.