Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said the Leaving Cert has to be reformed and has warned some price rises in recent months will be permanent during his speech to the Fianna Fáil Ard Fheis.
In his closing address, Mr Martin addressed Covid-19, health, housing, education, the cost-of-living, the climate and culture and identity.
He said the Leaving Cert in its current form has to be reformed and make sure that courses help students “to prepare for the world of today and tomorrow.”
He said: “The Leaving Certificate in its current form was designed following Fianna Fáil’s introduction of free secondary education.
“But that was before most of the modern economy existed and before many of the pressures experienced by young people today had even been imagined.
“The Leaving Certificate examination has to be reformed. It has to provide more options for assessment and to measure a more complete range of skills.”
He said the Government is determined to do everything wit can to help families, businesses and to protect jobs.
He said some factors pushing up prices, and especially energy prices, will hopefully be short-term in their impact and prices will follow the historical trend and reverse.
But he warned others will likely be more permanent.
He said the sheer scale of rising prices led to the Government’s response to help people through the budget.
“Every single household and business will benefit – with the biggest benefits going to those who are most in need,” he added.
On housing, the Taoiseach said housing is the single most important social issue facing our country.
He said although the pandemic stopped a lot of building activity for a time, “the strategy is starting to make an impact.”
Mr Martin also took aim at Opposition party’s and said the “emptiness” of their policy’s “lack of a credible alternative shows that they know that our plans will deliver and they are doing everything they can to block them.
“They claim to care about housing but have objected to 6,000 homes in Dublin alone in the last two years.”
On healthcare, he said “we have to do better” and provide faster access to services and make new specialist services available.
“To get faster access to treatments, and to reduce the waiting lists which have been made much worse because of the pandemic, there are many things which are being done, but the most important step is clear: We need to continue to provide more hospital beds – more doctors, nurses and health care professionals.”
He said the Government’s task to tackle climate change becomes more urgent every day.
He said: “To protect our environment and to secure sustainable and affordable energy we simply have to end reliance on fossil fuels.
“And the scale of biodiversity loss is becoming clearer all the time – we have to act to protect this most precious element of our natural heritage.
“Ireland has the potential to be a world leader in offshore wind energy – and we are determined that this will happen.”
The Ukrainian ambassador was also present for Mr Martin’s speech and said Ukraine’s struggle has been an inspiration.
The Taoiseach paid tribute to the people of Ireland who have opened their communities, their homes and their hearts to the people of Ukraine.
Mr Martin said Ireland will not waver in our support for Ukraine and their future as a member of the European Union.
Mr Martin said Fianna Fáil will always be proud of its central role in securing ceasefires, negotiating the Good Friday Agreement and developing North/South cooperation.
He said opportunities to tackle disadvantage and to tackle sectarianism have not been taken, and remain unfulfilled.
He said: “There has been a lot of talk about unity and reconciliation but very little work done to actually build the bridges which make it happen.
“Well that time is over.” On the party’s identity, he said “we believe in the Republican vision set out in 1916 of a country which truly unites all the people of our island, which respects diversity, different identities and puts behind it the divisions of the past.”
Mr Martin told the crowd that Fianna Fáil believes it is the “duty of every one of us to do the hard work of building understanding, unity and a sense of shared community.”