We’re halfway through the government’s term of Office and so this evening I want to talk to you about the progress we have made, the challenges that remain, and where we want to take Ireland for the future.
For our country it’s been a backbreaking time, but it had to be.
Because it was clear that only radical action could save us from total ruin.
Only radical change could rescue us from the political and economic crisis that brought the Troika to our door.
Banks on the brink, an economy in freefall, a quarter of a million jobs lost over three years.
Across the world, Ireland’s good name in tatters, our reputation in shreds.
That was the situation in Ireland in early 2011.
But, let me say to you, wherever you are watching, we are never going back to the culture of those times. Never.
Tonight, I want to thank you.
Because it’s thanks to you, to your sacrifice, your patience, that Ireland is at long last on the road back to recovery and to work.
Yes, our competitiveness has improved. We have 34,000 new jobs in the last year alone.
We are on track to exit the bail-out by the end of the year.
It’s just a start. But it is the progress we’ve been waiting for.
And it is real progress.
I know that many of you have yet to see the evidence of that progress in your day-to-day lives.
You’re living with lower salaries, higher costs. Worried about the bills, the rent, the mortgage, the children and our elderly.
But now the clear economic evidence shows that your huge sacrifice is paying off.
With the decisions you worked with us to take our economy has started to grow and to strengthen.
Yes, we still have a long way to go. But because of what you did at your end of the bargain, finally, there are better days ahead.
For our part in Government we started with repairing, Ireland’s international reputation.
Tanaiste Eamonn Gilmore and I knew that being a new Government wasn’t enough.
Our global partners and investors had to see that we were a very different government, a serious government.
From the outset, we proved that in our financial decisions.
And I can report to you that Ireland’s international reputation has been fully restored.
In January of this year, we assumed the EU Presidency. The consensus is that our tenure was a great success.
The EU budget 2014 to 2020.
The Reform of the Common Agricultural and Fisheries policies.
The mandate for EU-US trade talks.
Major progress on banking reform.
Were all negotiated and agreed by Ireland.
We showed the world that when it comes to international relations and diplomacy.
Ireland is very much a leader, right up there with the very best.
And in our economy too, after some disastrous years, confidence is gradually being restored.
Despite a tough international environment, our economy has started to grow.
Irish exports are at an historic high, worth over 180 billion euro.
The interest-rate on government bonds is down from 15 per cent to less than four per cent.
Across the world, investors are watching Ireland and they like what they see.
I know that for years, all of you at home were watching our public finances, not alone with dread, but with disbelief.
You can’t run your homes and businesses by spending more than you take in.
And you know that years of give-away budgets gave away nothing except our economic security, our children’s futures.
So our budgets to date were designed to attract investment and to create jobs.
Specifically, they focused on what was needed to give us back our financial security, our power to decide the kind of country we want to become.
I want to say that I know how tough this has been on you, on your families, on your businesses.
But you now know your sacrifices are showing results.
Because since coming to office, we have exceeded all our budgetary targets as we move towards manageable and normal budgeting by 2015.
Next year, we will deliver a primary surplus in our budget, which means that finally we can start to reduce the burden of our national debt.
Central to all of this is of course jobs.
Getting our people back to work is what drives every economic decision.
Yes, there are too many people still out of work.
Yes, there are too many people still leaving the country.