Taoiseach Enda Kenny last night praised the sacrifices people had made in helping the country move in the right direction but warned that post-bailout Ireland would still pursue prudent budgetary policies.
In a state-of-the nation TV address to mark Ireland’s exit from the bailout, Mr Kenny highlighted the tough situations faced by many since the country was forced to ask the EU and IMF for help three years ago. Pre-empting the publication this week of the Coalition’s future economic proposals, Mr Kenny also pledged that numbers employed would grow by 100,000 to 2m by 2020.
The Government would cut debt, create jobs, never return to a previous culture of greed, and finish the job voters had “entrusted to Fine Gael and Labour”, he said in the seven-minute address filmed at his office.
It is the second such state-of-the-nation speech by Mr Kenny and the sixth given by a Taoiseach.
Describing the difficult choices faced by people in the recession, he said: “This was tough — wages and services were cut, and new charges introduced. Many families have also had to face the devastating consequences of unemployment and emigration.
“I know that many people are struggling to make ends meet. I also know that, for many of you, the recent improvements in the economic situation are not yet being felt in your daily lives. But it is now clear that your sacrifices are making a real difference. Ireland is now moving in the right direction.”
From today, Ireland will again access the markets like an ordinary Eurozone member, he said. The exit from the bailout would not change lives overnight “but it does send out a powerful signal internationally, that Ireland is fighting back, that the spirit of our people is as strong as ever”.
Despite the upbeat note of the speech, he cautioned against putting the progress Ireland had made at risk.
The new medium-term economic plan, to be published either tomorrow or Wednesday, would ensure that never again would “Ireland’s stability be threatened by speculation and greed,” he said. “We are never going back to that culture.”
Ireland must continue to pursue prudent budgetary policy, he said, but over 90% of the needed cuts and tax increases under the bailout were done. Ireland could eliminate borrowing and cut public debt by a quarter.
“By increasing total employment to over 2m people by 2020, we can replace all of the jobs that were lost during the crisis with new jobs, offering many of those who have left Ireland the choice to return home.”
Opposition parties will be given speaking time on RTÉ this evening and tomorrow to balance coverage of the Taoiseach’s address.
In the Irish Examiner, ISME’s Mark Fielding said public servants are still overpaid and banks are not lending. Social Justice Ireland’s Sean Healy said policies are needed to stimulate the economy, and large corporations must pay more tax.
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