I am pleased to be here to launch the latest Edelman Trust Barometer. It comes at a time when the need to restore trust was never stronger.
This day, in 1944, the Siege of Leningrad was lifted. 900 days of horror. But,
in that time, the great art treasures of The Hermitage were hidden.
Shostakovich composed his Seventh Symphony.
Amid the wreckage of their city and their lives, students sat and passed their
By this day, 27 January, 650,000 people died. But the human spirit endured and
life went on.
In a sense, the people of Ireland, have been under siege.
Though in our case, there was no enemy bombardment. Instead, it was friendly
fire: the banks, property developers, ‘experts’, watchdogs. The
government. Those gifted with the most precious possessions a democrat has –
their trust, their vote. But still, we endure. For too many of us, life has
changed. Changed utterly. But, still, life goes on.
But in the next four weeks, we start the journey of recovery. In fact, I would
say, we start the journey of redemption. Because, yes, I believe in this time
of national trauma, national suffering, national betrayal, we need a new
redemptive politics, a new redemptive trust, a new redemptive government.
I believe we need a new political engagement, a new political language, and
above all, a new political plan so a new government can engage, again, with a
people whose hearts have been broken, whose dreams have been ruined, whose
trust has been shattered by old government, by old politics, by an old
‘system’ that has proved itself to be elitist, divisive, corrosive and
eventually self-destructive. And absolutely defunct.
It’s an old political system devised when another renegade elite was busy
gambling away this country’s future, only that time at the brandy-soaked
roulette and card-tables of Kensington and Chelsea. So what is its function in
a world where we register a million new domain names a month?
I want to make it very clear, then, at this launch of the Trust Barometer,
that what passed for government, what passed for public engagement, what
passed for ‘leadership’ in Ireland are now, equally, well and truly
What my Party offers in their place is a plan to get Ireland working again.
It’s a plain plan. No-frills. No auctions. A plan based on Trust - this time
a mutual trust - that will get Ireland working.
I like to think of Fine Gael’s plan to get Ireland working as a five-pointed
star. A bright star, giving clarity, confirming our co-ordinates for what will
be a difficult journey to the better future ahead.
We will shortly launch the plan to get Ireland working, but I want to give you
a sense of what it contains:
1. Protecting and creating jobs;
2. Fairer Budgets so we can keep taxes lower;
3. A completely new health system;
4. Reforming the public service; and
5. Politicians will lead by example, because we cannot fix our economy until
we fix our politics.
And leading by example costs. As you might know.
Hard to imagine, but my decision back in November 2009 to propose the
abolition of the Senate didn’t leave everyone in Fine Gael ecstatic. But in
my view, good government, proper government, modern government, cannot please
all the people all the time. And as the evidence of the last ten years
suggests – nor should it try to.
Sacrifice: a word that needs rehabilitation in national politics - is
required. And when sacrifice must be made for the good of the country, it
should never start with the carers and the blind and the poor.
Sacrifice never starts with the shell-shocked new poor, the hard workers of
this country, the former taxpayers, about to lose their homes now, along with
their dignity, their hope, too often, even sanity itself.
No. For a change, sacrifice will start at the top. With the Taoiseach. With
the Cabinet. Because I believe in Kennedy’s dictum: “Of those to whom much
is given, much is required.”
A good government must serve the people, all the people. Acting in trust, a
good government must serve only the country, never its cronies, its insiders,
And when people see their politicians lead by example, little by little, that
vital and now pulverised mutual trust, will be rebuilt, restored and
On the radio, I hear pundits and government cheerleaders saying, ‘we are
where we are, we have to move on’.
Yes, we do. But, as a nation, as a society, we cannot get to where we need to
be without some understanding of the wrongs done. And make no mistake:
monumental wrongs have been done to the people of our country. And to our
That reputation has been damaged internationally, at a great cost to our
people. Repairing that damage and rebuilding that trust must be key priorities
for the next government.
Funnily enough, of all the hundreds of men and women who have come to me to
talk about their deep anxiety at the sudden drop in their living standards, or
about having no money for the mortgage, no new shoes for the children, or no
chance now of paying the extortionate VHI, not a single one of them has ever
said to me ‘we are where we are. We have to move on.’
Not one. Not a single one.
They do say: ‘Never again. Never let this happen to us again. Sort it
If I get the opportunity to implement Fine Gael’s plan, they can be sure
that it won’t happen again. Because we’ve had enough now of the Two
Irelands. The elite Ireland that cleans up. And the rest of Ireland that
cleans up the mess.
But our plan for a new Ireland, an Ireland where people have work, and an
Ireland that works for the people, must create a new and very different
political narrative. A narrative that hauls politics back from the margins and
places it at the centre of our lives. A public and very different narrative
that includes and cherishes the ideas that make our lives work, that make our
businesses prosper, that make our communities better. Ideas like compassion,
gentleness, sincerity, responsibility, respect, honour, grief, forgiveness,
redemption, restitution, love, letting go.
These must be genuine expressions if politics is to prove that it can embrace
and lead people who now live fragile and shattered lives. Yes, we must move
on. And we will. But not blindly. And not quite yet. Because, lessons must be
given and learned. And when the time is ready, when trust is rebuilt, when the
plan is seen to be working, because Ireland is working, our people are
working, because the government leads by example, then we will move on. We
will move on together. We will move on mindfully to a better future.
I see from your barometer that trust in government is down 11 points. Trust in
banks is down 20. Big losses. But not as big as the losses in millions of
homes and hearts across this country.
Not as big as the wrongs that the next government must put right.
Our political system is broken. We have one of the most centralised states in
Europe. We have a Cabinet at a remove, so powerful and so privileged, it is
utterly unaccountable to the Dáil or to the people.
Our permanent government, made up of senior civil servants and managers of
state agencies are largely unaccountable to anyone. Our budgetary and fiscal
system is so outdated that it makes it almost impossible to manage the
nation’s finances properly. Fine Gael is determined to revolutionise this
broken system. It’s a core pillar of our plan to get Ireland working.
I want a single chamber parliament with a smaller, more effective Dáil. A Dáil
with a powerful committee system that can truly hold the government to
In making these and other changes, we can ensure that the reckless mistakes of
recent years can never be repeated. Let’s build trust. It starts with our
plan. A plan for everyone here, for every family, every pensioner, every
worker, everyone who calls Ireland ‘home’. It starts with Trust. Trust us,
trust yourselves to know that when you tap that political barometer, together
we’ll get Ireland working.
That’s why, at a time of great challenges, we need a strong and stable
government. That’s why I want to demonstrate to people that politics can
In the coming weeks, I will seek the trust of the Irish people to implement
Fine Gael’s plan to get Ireland working again. I firmly believe that by
2016, Ireland can become the best small country in the world in which to do
business, the best country in which to raise a family and the best country in
which to grow old with dignity and respect.