What Enda Kenny said to the Irish people in his State of the Nation address
Selected extracts from Prime Minister’s pre-Budget speech
Tonight I’m taking the opportunity to speak to you directly on the challenge we face as a community, as an economy, and as a country.
I know this is an exceptional event. But we live in exceptional times. And we face an exceptional challenge. It is important that you know the truth of the scale of that challenge - and how we are addressing it.
At the end of last year, our economy was in deep crisis. And while steps to recover from the crisis have been taken, we remain in crisis today.
I would love to tell you tonight that our economic problems are solved, that the worst is over. But, for far too many of you, that is simply not the truth.
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Let me say this to you all: You are not responsible for the crisis.
My Government is determined that now; the necessary decisions and changes are made to ensure that this is never allowed to happen again.
Right now, our most important responsibility is to do what must be done to get our economy back on its feet.
Right now, the State is spending €16bn a year more than it is taking in. This problem will not be fixed unless we take action to bridge this gap. This can only be done by us, ourselves. Working together.
The steps the Government has taken merely reflect your courage, your character, and your sense of responsibility, for which I thank you.
While none of this has ended the crisis, we have made a start.
This week, we will introduce a Budget that will build on those first steps towards recovery.
This Budget will be tough - it has to be. The main purpose of this Budget, and of our four-year strategy, is the creation of jobs for our people.
Jobs are central to this Budget because work plays such a central role in our lives. Work provides focus. Work gives us independence. Work gives our families hope.
We won’t be able to create jobs overnight. It will take time. But by 2015, I want to see our deficit under control and real growth in jobs.
We are not able to do all we would like to in this Budget because we simply can’t afford to. We have had to postpone some really good projects - like Metro North, for example.
But this Budget will be a jobs Budget in two ways: firstly, by putting our public finances back onto a sound footing; secondly, the Budget will include a series of targeted measures specifically designed to create jobs and get people back to work.
To give you some certainty for the year ahead, we’re leaving income tax untouched.
Instead, we will raise the €1.6bn of extra taxes that Ireland needs mainly through indirect taxes, difficult though these will be.
The highest priority is to create more jobs, but we will also do all we can to protect the most vulnerable in our communities - our children, the sick, and the elderly.
I wish I could tell you that the Budget won’t impact on every citizen in need, but I can’t. Difficult choices are never easy, but we will invest in crucial projects like the National Children’s Hospital, school buildings and health centres.
Before asking families to make sacrifices, we also insisted on sacrifices from those at the top.
We cut the pay and removed state cars and garda (police) drivers for ministers.
In the last few weeks I have informed former Taoisigh (Prime Ministers) that entitlements, like free mobile phones and staff allowances are being withdrawn.
The pay and pensions of senior public servants have been cut.
This week’s Budget will go further: 50 quangos will be abolished or merged, and the public sector will be downsized by 23,000 people by 2015. Next year, we will hold a referendum to abolish the Seanad.
But these steps are just a start.
We will reform how we run the country so that we never return to the practices that drove our economy into freefall - reckless spending, weak oversight of banks and reliance on a property boom for tax revenues.
However - in Ireland, an island nation - we cannot operate in isolation. We are part of the European Union.
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Let me be clear - Ireland supports stronger economic governance throughout Europe, and particularly in the eurozone. European leaders must make and - more importantly this time must implement - clear decisions this week to prove our shared determination to protect our currency.
Otherwise, international confidence and investment in Europe will continue to fall.
In outlining the Government’s strategy with you tonight, I do not for a moment want to make it sound simplistic or painless. It is not.
We are on a four-year path to recovery. This, our first Budget, is a necessary step.
The truth is, our economy remains fragile, and it will take us several years to recover fully.
But over the last months we have made a start. Towards more jobs. Towards more opportunities. Towards renewed confidence.
I am optimistic for the future. I want to be the Taoiseach (Prime Minister) who retrieves Ireland’s economic sovereignty, and who leads a Government that will help our country succeed.
I want to make this the best small country in the world in which to do business, in which to raise a family and in which to grow old. I believe Government, being honest and open, working with the people, will meet and beat the challenges we face.
Next Tuesday, December 6, is the 90th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty in 1921.
Just as our fledgling state made its way to becoming a Republic then - I believe with all my heart, that we the Irish people can now make our way to recovery, to prosperity and to the fulfilment of the dreams of our children and the founding fathers of our nation.
Enda Kenny's address of the nation: