Ireland will go down in history as one of the first countries to tackle the global recession and recognise the scale of the crisis, the Taoiseach said today.
At his first address as Fianna Fáil leader to the party’s annual Arbour Hill Easter Rising Commemoration, Brian Cowen said the state’s response was unprecedented in its breadth and speed.
As a devastating new opinion poll showed a five-point slump for the chief coalition party, Mr Cowen urged the public for support to restore economic stability.
“Ireland is facing up to her problems and taking prompt, forceful and appropriate action as was evidenced by the recent Supplementary Budget,” Mr Cowen said.
“I firmly believe that history will show that we were among the first countries to recognise the scale of the crisis and to put in place a comprehensive framework for recovery.”
He urged the public to remember the sacrifices the men of 1916 made for their fellow Irishman.
“Those of us who have jobs are being asked to contribute a little more to help the many who have become recently unemployed as a result of the recession,” he said.
“Today is a timely reminder of the sacrifices others have made in the past for their fellow Irishmen and women.
“We should be prepared to look at the wider common good during this difficult time for the country.”
He said the Government had made tough decisions that had affected people’s lives, but claimed they were the correct ones to take.
“We know that the path to recovery lies in prompt, speedy, consistent and forceful policy action by Government,” he said.
Fianna Fáil suffered yet another opinion poll blow today, with a five point drop to just 23%, according to the Sunday Business Post/Red C poll.
Fine Gael has a ten point lead at 33%, while Labour was up two to 19%, the Greens unchanged at 7% and Sinn Féin up one to 8%.
Independents and others were unchanged at 10%.
Speculation is also rising of growing discontent among Fianna Fáil ranks after sacked junior minister John McGuinness hit out at the leadership of Mr Cowen and Tánaiste and Enterprise Minister Mary Coughlan.
But Mr Cowen defended his handling of the economic crisis at the 1916 commemoration, claiming the battle for economic stability would be won.
He warned history had taught us that recessions associated with a financial crisis tended to be deeper and longer lasting.
But he claimed the Irish were a resilient people.
“This global economic crisis is but the latest challenge,” he said.
“We have come through in the past because of the ingenuity, steadfastness and courage of our people.
“I believe that this generation too will meet the test.
“We should not let these tougher times sap our spirits.”
Turning to the North Mr Cowen said dissident republicans would face the full force of the law.
“To those who use violence to attack the democratic institutions established by the people in 1997, we have a simple message – the democratic will of the Irish people must be respected.
“Those who turn to violence will be rejected and they will face the full force of the law.
“They will not be allowed to succeed.”