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Enda: "It’s about your right to say two small words, made up of three simple letters – I DO"

The Taoiseach delivered his keynote address to the Fine Gael faithful in Castlebar tonight, and gave his strongest backing yet for the referendum.

Image: Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland

ENDA KENNY HAS delivered his strongest backing yet to the referendum on same-sex marriage, saying it would send out “powerful signal internationally” that Ireland has become a “fair, compassionate and tolerant nation” if passed in May.

In a televised speech to the Fine Gael national conference in his hometown of Castlebar this evening, Kenny told delegates that the referendum, due to take place on 22 May, was about giving same-sex couples the right to say “I do”.

“As we approach the centenary of the Rising, a Yes vote would, I believe, send out a powerful signal internationally that Ireland has evolved into a fair, compassionate and tolerant nation. I believe that this is the right thing to do. I, and the Fine Gael Party strongly support a Yes vote,” he said.

And therefore I say to all same sex couples in our country. This is about you, it’s about your right to say two small words, made up of three simple letters – I DO. For you, in your lives together, may they become your letters of freedom.

Kenny had previously refused to state his position on the issue prior to the government committing to a referendum on what former tánaiste Eamon Gilmore described as “the civil rights issue of this generation”.

Though he has consistently said he and Fine Gael will campaign for the referendum’s passage, his words tonight will be widely considered as his strongest statement of support yet.

What he also said…

The wide-ranging speech reiterated much of what was heard at the conference this weekend.

Kenny restated the perilous situation the country found itself in four years ago and hailed  the recovery that his party has overseen in coalition with Labour.

He said that “the era of new taxes and charges is over” and that tax cuts will continue in the next Budget and future Budgets – if Fine Gael is re-elected.

In his concluding line he delivered a quote attributed to Michael Collins during the treaty negotiations, saying:

“Give us the future… we’ve had enough of your past… give us back our country, to live in, to grow in… to love.”

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Elsewhere, he said the government was targeting full employment by 2018, saying unemployment is “the main cause of inequality and unfairness in our society”.

He said he wanted to provide opportunities for emigrants to return home. Kenny said he believed 2016 would be the first in seven years where more people would be “coming home” than leaving.

The coalition is committed to recouping all of the money invested in AIB and Bank of Ireland, Kenny told delegates, and he reiterated what he had previously reiterated, insisting once again that the 12.5 per cent corporation tax rate is “not up for grabs”.

During the speech, Kenny also referenced his infamous Five Point Plan claiming that the government “has delivered” on the promises of fixing the public finances, getting people back to work, not increasing income taxes and reforming the way government does its work.

He acknowledged that plans to radically overhaul the health service are ambitious but insisted that the government’s proposals remain “the right plan”.

Towards the end of his speech, Kenny warned that next year’s general election will be “a clear choice between stable and coherent government; or chaos and instability”.

What happened: Here are 8 things we learned at Enda’s big homecoming shindig 

About the author:

Hugh O'Connell

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