With construction growth comes jobs
Cranes may not be the most glamorous vehicles in the world, but they're one of the most visible and welcome signs of economic recovery - and they're back on the skyline.
I paid a visit to one such construction site yesterday - at the National Gallery - where a major renovation project is under way to launch a new campaign in tandem with the Construction Industry Federation.
The goal is to help unemployed construction workers get back to work.
The visit came as the latest CSO figures showed real progress on the jobs front. Unemployment is down to 10pc from a crisis peak of 15.1pc. In a relatively short period of time, the Government has reduced unemployment by a third through its twin strategies, Pathways to Work and the Action Plan for Jobs.
The number of people on the Live Register has fallen below 350,000 for the first time since January 2009.
Remember then? That was when Ireland was mired in crisis, Anglo Irish Bank was being nationalised, Fianna Fáil was realising the dreadful implications of its bank guarantee, Sinn Féin was trying to pretend it had never voted for the guarantee, and unemployment was on a devastating trajectory upwards.
But while Labour and Fine Gael in Government have made substantial progress - both in ending the economic crisis and increasing employment - we've much more work to do. That's why the latest figures are merely a staging post - albeit a significant one - towards our ultimate target of full employment by 2018.
And that's why I launched the new campaign yesterday.
No sector saw the stark realities of the crash more clearly than construction.
Restoring the sector to health will create a circle, whereby construction companies get the finance they need for projects, construction workers are re-employed, and they build the homes that families need.
A key step in this process is ensuring industry employers are fully aware of the supports available from both my department and the Government as a whole. A simple example is JobsPlus, through which we assist employers with wage costs when they hire persons who have been long-term unemployed.
We pay €416 a month to an employer who hires someone who has been unemployed for more than two years.
Already, almost 4,300 people have returned to work under the scheme. That's 4,300 lives changed, and I hope to increase those numbers significantly as employers expand and seek to hire more staff.
We'll help them do it, because while the jobs recovery is real, it's not complete yet - and we aim to complete it.
Joan Burton is Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection