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Tánaiste Micheál Martin at the Ard Fheis.
the big issues

A warning to social media firms and an appeal to Iran: Martin rallies troops at FF Ard Fheis

Micheál Martin said that Ireland is facing “enormous” challenges, but that the country “can and will overcome”.

TÁNAISTE MICHEÁL MARTIN has issued a warning to social media firms to do more to protect children, and has appealed for calm from Iran in his speech at the Fianna Fáil Ard Fheis. 

Martin said that Ireland is currently facing “enormous” challenges, and that many people in the country today feel that the problems we are facing have become insurmountable. 

However, he added that these challenges can and will be addressed. 

“Can we help young people growing up in a constantly changing online world?” he asked, while citing protecting jobs, addressing climate change, securing food production, managing the global “migration crisis”,  and defending world peace and cooperation as other pressing issues. 

In the face of all these issues, Martin said, Ireland “can and will overcome”. 

“I know this because we have already achieved so much as a country – and we can achieve so much more. Just think of the terrible pandemic which we faced four years ago. As a country we came together,” the Tánaiste went on to say. 

Martin said that the impact of social media and phone use on children is becoming the “new public health crisis of our time”, and that it is something people discuss with him up and down the country. 

He said that the Government has sent some guidance to schools on social media use, but that Fianna Fáil intends to go “much further”. 

Martin proposed that every school will be given funding to support the banning of smartphones during school time. 

He also sent a clear message to social media companies, that they must take actions to get underage children off their platforms, “or we will impose those steps on you”. 

“Online safety – getting children off their screens and back talking to each other – these are objectives we should all share,” Martin said. 

He promised that the free school books scheme will be expanded to cover Leaving Cert years.

The Tánaiste reaffirmed his party’s pro-EU stance, and the stressed the importance of the union in diplomatic efforts to de-escalate ongoing conflicts. 

Martin said that Ireland’s support for Ukraine must be “resolute” and that the last six months have involved “tireless” work from within the party to contribute to efforts trying to bring an end to war in Gaza. 

He said that the “brutal savagery” of Hamas must be condemned, and that all Israeli hostages should be released, and the activities of the group should be brought to an end, as they have only brought “misery” to the Palestinian people. 

“But as I have said repeatedly, including in direct discussions with the Israeli government, its war in Gaza is causing a shocking humanitarian catastrophe and cannot be justified,” Martin continued. 

He said the developments in the Middle East this weekend have been concerning, in particular the rising tensions between Israel and Iran. 

“We join with others in appealing to Iran to step back from an escalation which threatens millions more people in the region with conflict,” Martin added. 

He restated his party’s support for the EU Asylum and Migration pact, and labelled it a “fair” response to the challenges posed by global migration.

He said that the Government is creating the “largest reserve funds” in Ireland’s history to guarantee investments and protect pensions and public services in the years to come through the Future Ireland, Infrastructure, Climate and Nature funds. 

Martin added that in response to the threat of climate change, Fianna Fáil is working to provide urgent supports to farmers being hit by “extreme weather changes”, but that it is also looking to the future by investing in new technologies and direct aid to farmers. 

He said that work is underway to increase and expand the €750 tax credit for renters, and to invest in and deliver more student housing. 

“To tackle our housing crisis, you don’t need politicians delivering angry speeches – you need a commitment to sustained action.

“While others talk, Fianna Fáil is the party of action on housing,” Martin said, citing the delivery of 12,000 “social homes” last year, with “thousands more already in the pipeline”. 

Martin said that “we aren’t there yet”, but a “new era of house building has begun”. 

Martin said that his party is determined to help children with special needs, as the current wait times for supports are “too long”, and a “new approach is needed”. 

He said that multi-disciplinary teams, active in schools, are needed. Minister Anne Rabbitte, who has been campaigning for better access to disability services, applauded the point from the audience. 

Martin closed out by saying to those who believe that Ireland has achieved nothing, and that there are “no differences” between its major political parties, that it is simply not true. 

He said that Fianna Fáil is willing to do the “serious work” to ensure progress continues in Ireland. 

The Tánaiste received a standing ovation by party members at the end of his speech.