Kenny pleads for public's trust to lead the country
FG leader's address has echoes of Obama
FINE Gael leader Enda Kenny has asked the public for their "trust" to allow him to lead a new government.
He made his direct appeal in a speech calculated to prepare the ground for his party in the event of a snap general election.
In his televised address, he promised to have the most hard-working government in the history of the State and to make the country a world leader in arts, education, business, food, and the environment.
"This is a commitment -- my commitment. It is the culmination of everything I've worked for, everything I believe in and everything I hold dear. I give you my word. I ask for your trust," he said.
Mr Kenny's leadership had been questioned following the departure of George Lee last month but he received a rapturous welcome from the party faithful in Killarney at the weekend. And he declared to reporters that he would be leading his party into the next General Election.
During his 30-minute televised address, he used the word "hope" which was a key part of US President Barack Obama's successful campaign. "I offer you a new hope that says, yes, you can and you will be able to get another job in this country. A new hope that means we are not just rearing and educating our children for emigration again," he said.
Mr Kenny promised the public to reform politics by reducing the 166 TDs in the Dail by 20 and abolishing the Seanad (where the party has 14 senators). But there were no other major policy initiatives -- he instead concentrated on explaining Fine Gael's existing policies to the electorate.
With the slogan "Getting People Back to Work" behind him, Mr Kenny spoke of his party's plans to set up internships for unemployed graduates and to create 105,000 jobs in a string of companies tasked with improving infrastructure and services.
"These jobs will be in renewable energy, water quality and broadband. They will be delivered within Fine Gael's first term in Government," he said.
Mr Kenny devoted a considerable amount of time to explaining his party's new Fair Care health policy, which promises free GP care for all and ultimately the replacement of medical cards with a system of universal health insurance.
He earned a cheer from delegates when he made a direct reference to the controversy over unopened GPs' letters in Tallaght Hospital in Dublin, saying hospitals would only be paid per patient and per procedure under his party's plan. "This means that if you are a consultant, you will not be paid until you have read the GPs' letters and have responded to them," he said.
Mr Kenny promised that the gardai would be given the resources and the numbers (although he did not mention any specifics) to tackle "ruthless criminals". But he reserved his strongest criticism for another group in society -- bankers.
"There must be a clear message to bankers. They will never be allowed to destroy our economy and our country again. Those who broke the law in pursuit of greed and reckless lending must face the consequences," he said.
He also signalled that Fine Gael would insist on finance spokesman Richard Bruton becoming finance minister in any coalition with Labour or other parties. "Indeed, in Richard Bruton I know I have the right man to run the Department of Finance at this critical time for this country," he said.
Mr Bruton had earlier stated that he would oppose the Government's plans for €3bn in further spending cuts in the next Budget -- arguing that it needed to be limited to a €2bn cut to avoid destroying jobs and competitiveness.
Towards the end of his speech, Mr Kenny referred to his famous pledge in his first (failed) attempt to become Fine Gael leader in 2001.
"I promised, once, to electrify this party. Behind me and before me and in every suburb and townland in this country is the result of that promise: a Fine Gael party ready for government," he said.
Can FG fix a broken society? jim downey, page 24