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Tanaiste: "There are still difficulties to confront"

Labour leader Gilmore spoke about the early days of the coalition government at the McGill summer school, saying he feared for the financial survival of the State.

Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore
Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore
Image: Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland

TÁNAISTE EAMON GILMORE once feared for the financial survival of the State, he told participants at the MacGill Summer School yesterday.

Speaking at the school, which is held in Glenties, Co Donegal, he paid tribute to John Hume, who he said “has shaped the Ireland in which we live today” more than most.

Reform

Nothing that the theme of the 2012 John Hume lecture is ‘reforming and rebuilding our state’, he said:

There were days when I feared for the financial survival of the State.

But he said that following agreement at the European summit on Ireland’s bank debt, and given the progress that it has made on a number of core economic issues, “our prospects of economic recovery have been substantially improved”.

No one doubts that there are still difficulties to confront.  No one doubts that the true test of progress is the creation of jobs and improving the situation of those thousands of families in Ireland who have been profoundly affected by the crisis. But we now have a far stronger platform on which to build.

Gilmore said that the core task of this Government “is to deal with the deep economic crisis that we inherited, and to build a sustainable economic recovery”.

It is our clear and stated aim, to restore financial stability, to renew growth, and above all, to create jobs.  To restore our economic sovereignty, by exiting the EU/IMF programme.

Speaking about the Troubles, and in particular the Greysteel massacre, the Labour leader said:

That dark and difficult time was almost 20 years ago.  The Ireland we live in today is virtually unrecognisable.  The troubles as we knew them are at an end.

Change

Comparing Ireland 20 years ago to today, he said “we can see that from great moments of crisis, can also come great change”.

Gilmore said that change will depend not just on the actions of governments, but “on the willingness of individuals both to embrace and work for change”.

Reforming and rebuilding the state is not, therefore, just an exercise in constitutional amendment, the changing of laws or the remaking of institutions.

He added that: “At times of crisis, it is all too easy to turn inwards.”

“We can no longer think of reform and rebuilding this State as a purely domestic project.  Our state does not stand in splendid isolation,” said Gilmore, noting Ireland’s role within the wider context of the European Union and the rest of the world.

Trade

The Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade said that the emphasis on building a political and trade relationship with countries in Asia is spurred on by the fact that “economically many believe that this will be the Asian century”.

He described Africa as “the coming continent”, and said he will be travelling to East Africa later this week.

Of the Irish economy, Gilmore said:

Since the Great Famine, and before it, the economy of Ireland has not, for any sustained period of time, provided a secure and sustainable living for all the people of Ireland.
We should never again allow ourselves to become dependent on any one sector, or any one market, and certainly not on the domestic property sector.

Gilmore said that Ireland cannot allow bad economic management to lead to economic stagnation, and said “this must be the moment when we break out of the cycle of economic crises”.

The Tánaiste said that the Government is engaged in a major programme of reform of how it delivers children’s services, and that it is making changes in education.

He also said that the pledge to introduce universal health insurance is “ambitious”, “but we can do it if we take it step-by-step.”.

Regarding the relationship between Church and State, he commented:

Now is the time to build a new relationship between Church and State in Ireland, based on mutual understanding and respect, but also on the primacy of personal freedom.

Media

Gilmore also spoke of the Irish media, and questioned how it will evolve over the coming two decades:

Twenty years from now, will newspapers as we know them still exist? Where will people turn for reliable information and commentary?  How will people be sure that the information that they are getting is accurate, or that commentary is reflective rather than reactive.

He said the country needs a media “that will provide for fair and balanced debate, but the only thing we can be certain of, is that the media will look radically different in twenty years time”.

Hope

In concluding his speech, the Tanaiste ended on a positive note:

I am hopeful for our future.  I believe that Ireland is a good country, with enormous reserves of talent, determination and grit. Our economy will  recover.  But it is not enough simply to put the pieces back together again.  We must build something better and new.

Gilmore said that the crisis “can be a turning point” for a “new and better Ireland” to be built.

Read: Corruption and the Catholic Church up for discussion at MacGill Summer School>

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