TAOISEACH Enda Kenny started off his EU fiscal treaty referendum campaign last night by appealing to voters: "Do not kick the future in the face."
Mr Kenny used his keynote address to the Fine Gael Ard Fheis to press for a 'Yes' vote in the referendum on May 31. And he followed through by warning it will be a "one-shot referendum" because the treaty has to be approved by January 1 next.
He said the passing of the referendum would be crucial to Ireland's future.
"Whatever differences we have at home, whatever differences we are having among ourselves, I would say to the Irish people -- do not kick the future in the face. The train leaves on January 1 next and we want to be on that," he said on RTE's 'The Week In Politics'.
During his leader's speech to the 4,000 Fine Gael members at the party's 76th Fine Gael Ard Fheis at the Convention Centre Dublin, Mr Kenny said he "cannot overstate" the importance of the treaty.
"In this referendum, we have a brilliant opportunity to say to the world that Ireland believes in the future of the euro, that Ireland is central to the future of the eurozone, that Ireland is four-square with Europe," he said.
"This commitment is an investment in our children's future, and in our country's future. Never again will a government be able to behave recklessly and arrogantly with the people's money," he added.
Mr Kenny said he wanted Ireland to have access to the "insurance policy of the European bailout fund", which he described as a critical reassurance for investors.
He said the Irish people turned to Fine Gael and the Labour Party just over a year ago at a time of national crisis.
"We will not celebrate until Ireland has reason to celebrate. Tonight, unemployment remains too high. Too many families are struggling to make ends meet. Too many worry about losing their homes. Too many of our children are still moving away," he said.
Defending the Coalition's strategy on banking debt, Mr Kenny said the Government will not throw away the progress made by reneging on international commitments.
"Ireland will not default. But we are determined to ease this burden on our people.
"That's why we are negotiating with our troika partners to find a cheaper way of financing the cost of bank recapitalisation," he said.
"That's why the €3.1bn promissory note payment due to be paid to Anglo Irish Bank on Monday is not being paid, but is being replaced by a long-term government bond, and the wider negotiations will continue," he added.
Mr Kenny admitted to frustration at not being able to move as fast as the Government wanted to on tackling the mortgage crisis.
He said he had appointed a temporary cabinet committee to focus on the issue.
The Government will work with the Financial Regulator to encourage banks to offer "negative-equity mortgages", whereby families can, depending on their circumstances, trade up or down.
He said the Coalition will finalise and enact a Personal Insolvency Bill designed to rebalance the rights of the borrower and lender "in a fairer way".
Mr Kenny said the Government will expand the use of "mortgage to rent" for families who can no longer afford their mortgages, to allow them to sell their houses and rent them back at affordable rents.
Finally, to free up the housing market, the Government is giving additional mortgage interest relief to first-time buyers who buy their homes before the end of 2012.
"These steps are to protect our families and to keep our children in the most powerful and precious place they will ever have in their lives: in their own home," he said.
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