TAOISEACH ENDA KENNY spoke about how the Irish dealt with the burden of bank debt in a speech to the European Parliament today.
He made the speech at the European Parliament while there to present the priorities of the Irish Presidency of the EU. This term marks Ireland’s seventh presidency, which Kenny noted began on the 40th anniversary of the country’s joining what was then the European Community:
The Irish people made a good decision – in those 40 years we have travelled well and far, we have never looked back. But our Atlantic island has long been at the ‘heart’ of Europe.
He spoke about how membership of the EU has transformed Ireland, particularly in terms of exporting goods to new countries. But, he said that Ireland’s “proud people continue to labour under the weight of bank-related debt”.
Noting that in November 2010 Ireland entered an EU-IMF support-programme, the Taoiseach said:
Austerity has brought pain and suffering to many families, many homes. But the Irish people have borne that weight, that pain with remarkable courage and patience and quiet dignity. And because of our people, their qualities I am happy to say that Ireland is taking steps on the road to recovery.
The Taoiseach said that Ireland has honoured all its EU-IMF commitments through eight Troika analyses, and that in 2012 the economy started to grow again with our exports climbing to record-levels. He said that the country is bringing government spending under control, and that “as a nation we are determined to exit the EU-IMF Programme before the end of this year”.
But he described unemployment as the “deepest hurt”, particularly for young people. He said that the chance of work is “the challenge of our generation” and it is one Ireland needs to meet head-on.
Kenny acknowledged that Ireland faces many challenges up ahead, but said he firmly believes that 2013 can be the year in which Ireland will exit its programme and show leadership to Europe.
Regarding the recent spate of violence in Northern Ireland, Kenny said:
The last weeks have seen attempts by some to threaten the very hard-won peace. But be assured small groups of disparate, unrepresentative, trouble-makers will never succeed in bringing Northern Ireland and its peoples back to that dark place
The Taoiseach said he “will spare no effort in working with President Van Rompuy with the aim of securing agreement on the MFF at the European Council”. The MFF is the Multiannual Financial Framework 2014 – 2020, on which a summit may be called next month.
Kenny said that the European heads “will work to achieve a real Banking Union”, and that this must be among the Union’s top priorities, including early adoption of the Single Supervisory Mechanism and the other elements of Banking Union.
I believe that in 2012 we saw the passing of possibly the worst of the economic crisis – the fear that the euro itself might not survive was confronted and dispelled emphatically and we now move onto the challenges of the recovery of Europe.
Also covered in the speech was Europe’s role in fighting global poverty and hunger, the potential to increase Europe’s trade with strategic partners, EU enlargement, and the fact that Ireland’s presidency “will be about our European family”.