"We are climbing back on our feet again" - Eamon Gilmore
Tanaiste told Labour party conference that Irish economy is improving
Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore has declared that the country is climbing back onto its feet again as it prepares to exit the bailout in two weeks' time.
In his televised address at the Labour party annual conference in Killarney, he said that 1,200 jobs were being created every week and unemployment was falling.
"Before the last election, Fianna Fáil had brought this country to its knees. Today, with Labour, and because of the sacrifices of the Irish people, we are climbing back on our feet again," he said.
Mr Gilmore has been under pressure over the past year due to the Labour party's falling popularity in opinion polls, but the most recent one last week saw the party's rating increase from 9pc to 12pc. He is insisting that things are beginning to improve ahead of the exit from the bailout in two weeks' time.
Mr Gilmore said that his party wanted to help hard pressed families with scheme such as free GP care for children under five and an extended school book rental scheme. He also signalled that tax reductions could be on the horizon.
"When the country's finances permit, I hope we will be able to relieve somewhat the burden of taxation on working people," he said.
However, Mr Gilmore said that there would be no going back to "boom and Bert" - in a dig at former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern's role in the economic collapse The Labour leader admitted that not everyone was experiencing the benefits at the moment and that some did not dare to hope because the future was still frightening.
"People who are living from day to day and from week to week. Worried about how they'll cope with an unexpected bill, like if the washing machine breaks down, or someone gets sick" he said.
He acknowledged the impact of the Budget cuts implemented from his party but said it had to take decisions to secure the country's future.
"Not everyone has been happy with some of the decisions we have had to make. I understand that and I accept responsibility for it. But we always knew that this was going to be tough. And it has," he said.
Mr Gilmore said there had been private battles fought with Fine Gael in Government but said that both parties were determined to "see it through". He praised Taoiseach Enda Kenny for his "pragmatic and honourable approach". And he also singled out Labour ministers such as Brendan Howlin, Ruairi Quinn, Pat Rabbitte and even his rival Joan Burton for praise for their work.
Mr Gilmore said he was proud that the Government had brought in abortion legislation - which he said would make pregnancy safer for Irish women whose lives were at risk.
Michael Brennan Deputy Political Editor