Sorry I didn’t get the video. But you can’t win ’em all…
Noel Dempsey, T.D., Minister for Transport
Friends, tonight is one of the most important nights in Fianna Fáil’s history.
Each one of us here knows why. Each and every one of us knows the human truth of the collapse of the global economy. The families under extreme pressure. The constituents who have played by the rules, done the hard yards and can’t believe what’s happened to them.
They can’t believe it, and it fills them with anger. Deep, deep anger. Much of that anger is directed at us. And it will continue to be directed at us.
Ireland has been swamped by a global disaster that has been greatly complicated, on the home front, by economic treason.
There’s no nicer way to describe what’s come out of one of the banks. It was economic treason. No more. No less.
And, in common with people the length and breadth of this country, I welcome the Garda action earlier this week.
I welcome action against people who have used the Irish economy as their own personal piggy bank. And the problem, let us be clear, is one of reckless endangerment of a nation.That’s not an exaggeration. That’s not “over the top.”
The fact is, that a small number of sophisticated money manipulators endangered the economic survival of our people.
There’s no parallel in history for the damage they have done to this nation – except perhaps Cromwell.
And even Cromwell was motivated by reasons other than personal gain.
I said that we must condemn them. We are the party of Government. We have been chosen by a majority of voters repeatedly over the past quarter of a century. We have, as a consequence, been in Government for the majority of that time.
Of course leaders in every sector of Irish society know prominent members of the Fianna Fail party. It’s inevitable. People in banking, people in construction would know, would have dealt with senior Fianna Fail figures down through the years.
But that does not amount to guilt-by-association.
* Knowing someone does not mean you share their vices or their practices
* Knowing a banker or a developer does not mean you tolerate bad practice or rule-breaking.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve had it up to here with cheapshot assumptions about members of this Party.
I categorically refute the unsupported rumours that Fianna Fáil approved of bank directors giving themselves huge loans or breaking any rules.
The smear that “if we had known, we’d have approved of such practices” is precisely that. A smear. We didn’t. We wouldn’t. We never will.
It’s important, also, for all of us to re-affirm the reality: that Fianna Fál still stands for what it has always stood for:
A Republican Party in the real, true, deep sense of that word. A Party that protects the weak and vulnerable. A Party that stands up to vested interests. A Party that values hard work and enterprise.
These values are more important than ever at a time when this Government is dealing with a complex new situation that gets more complicated and difficult by the day.
We are making choices. Hobson’s choices. Choices between bad – and worse. If we are not brutally effective – quickly – in fixing our finances, others will do it for us.
If that were to happen we could protest, but nothing would change. If outsiders dictate our economic policies, we won’t be worried about a pension levy.
We’d be looking at pay cuts – right across the board – of 30%. Or 40%. Or worse. We’d be looking at serious job losses. We will fight to prevent that happening to Ireland. We will fight to ensure that we continue to control our economic destiny.
But preventing it causes huge – and justified anger – as individuals and families who’ve worked hard, find themselves poorer than they should be.
That’s the truth, and we must not deny it. Much of that anger is directed at us. That’s the truth, and we must not shirk it. Much of that anger will continue to be directed at us. That’s the truth, and we must live with it.
I’m not saying it’s not painful. It’s very painful. It’s personally and collectively painful. But it’s nothing like as painful as the problems facing workers, facing parents, facing students, facing older people, right around this country at this time.
It’s our duty to let people out there know that we understand the personal realities of the recession. Not to minimise them. Not to make empty optimistic noises and pretend they change those realities.
But it is also our duty and our responsibility to take this country by the scruff of the neck and point it towards recovery.
We are the party of Government. We have the capacity to turn this economy around. We can do it. And – more to the point – we’re the only party that will do it!!
Fianna Fáil in Government is faced with the worst conditions any Irish Government has ever faced. They’re the worst conditions because of the better life all of us had become used to.
But that’s a core strength of our party – its capacity to deal with tough times and set course for better times. We’re a party of practical vision. It was practical vision that led Sean Lemass to look outward, not inward. To see possibilities, not problems. To believe that, from a standing start, this country could become an exporter of more than cattle on the hoof.
Sean Lemass didn’t just create the IDA. He created a new mindset for a nation. A mindset that acknowledged where we were but also what we could become. He was the most practical of men. And the most visionary.
Throughout every downturn one party and only one party has taken the decisive action needed to rescue the Irish economy.
In the face of every challenge, one party and only one party has faced the pain, taken the punishment and led this nation forward.
It is important that we don’t forget that. It’s vital that we are confident in the face of these difficult circumstances. It’s crucial that, at this challenging time in our history – we are seen to stand for the best of what we are.
And what’s that?
What’s the best of what we are? I’ll tell you what it is.
At our core, Fianna Fail has a resolute commitment to people. Let us not forget – or let others forget – that this is the party that led the way to an open, liberal, educated and ambitious Ireland. When things go wrong, Fianna Fáil has fight in it. In tight times, the differences between us become our great strengths.
We cannot be defeated – because we absolutely refuse to accept the possibility of defeat. Right now, for example, we need to better explain what we’re doing. Why? So that we bring the people with us in our determination to recover from current setbacks and build a great future.
I said at the outset that this is a significantly different Ard Fheis. A signally important, an historic Ard Fheis. An Ard Fheis at a critically important point in the ongoing story of the Fianna Fail party.
This Ard Fheis presents each and every one of us with the opportunity to remind ourselves of our strengths. It gives us the chance to re-establish some realities. And let me tell you the most important of those realities. It’s this. Whatever problems we have and wherever the blame may fall for those problems: this party and this Government is – by a mile – the best that can be offered to the nation at this time.
We have the experience. We have the knowledge. We have the commitment. And we are led by a man who cares – first, last and always – about his people. About our people.
Brian Cowen has spent the last few months delivering in a dire situation. He has watched, across the floor of the house, the Opposition Parties not delivering. Not delivering principled opposition.
Instead, they have delivered cheap dramatics – not caring about the consequences of what they’re saying.
Fine Gael and the Labour Party will some day regret the way they danced around a wounded economy. They will some day regret the way they happily spread a dangerous message to the world about a country they claim to love and to serve.
They have not served Ireland well in the last few weeks.
They have not served Ireland, and they should be ashamed of their opportunism.
There are few certainties in politics, but one thing is certain, at the moment. The temporary popularity they now enjoy will not last.
It will not last because the people of Ireland spot cynicism a mile off, and they know the difference between random rants and real leadership.
Real leadership is what Sean Lemass personified.
At any time, good leadership is important. But at times of massive sudden change and challenge, good leadership becomes more than just important. It becomes pivotal.
Good leadership in challenging times is what allows challenges to be surmounted and triumphs achieved.
We in Fianna Fáil have always had that kind of leadership. Great leadership in challenging times demands discipline and attention to detail. Real leadership is about blunt honesty and fair dealing.
Real leadership is about clear direction and a deep concern for people. But it’s also about a marvellous impatience – a “get on with it” attitude – and a determination to never to give in. Real leadership is about trusting your own people, because you know they want you to deliver – as you promised. Real leadership is about being steeped in Fianna Fáil’s values. About living those values while driving this nation forward to a better future.
In Fianna Fáil, we know real leadership when we see it – and we respond to it with a passion.
Now is the time to demonstrate that passion. Now is the time to demonstrate that this party, the party of Government, is led by the right man at the right time.
It is my privilege to call on you to demonstrate Fianna Fail’s pride and purpose and confidence in the man who must lead us through challenge to national recovery.
Our friend. Our leader. Our Taoiseach.
Please welcome – Brian Cowen.