Fine Gael Launches General Election Campaign

Weekly Message from An Taoiseach, Enda Kenny

Posted June 28th, 2011

I travelled to Brussels yesterday for a meeting of the European Council.

There is no doubt Europe is under a good deal of pressure at the present time due to the ongoing situation in Greece, and, naturally, this was top of the agenda.

More money has now been pledged to the Greeks, provided its parliament fully enacts an extensive austerity plan.

The meeting also considered the latest developments on economic issues and the Euro, and analysed progress made on a range of economic governance issues agreed in March.

Also discussed were other issues including migration into the European Union and the ongoing situation in certain North African countries, and the Middle East.

At the EU Summit last night, the opportunity arose to raise the issue of Ireland’s campaign for a reduction on our bailout interest rate directly with French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

He agreed that the process of talks would continue in this regard.

I later explained to the meeting the efforts Ireland is making to meet the demands placed on us, and spelled out again the need for an interest rate reduction.

The Government will continue to pursue this matter at every opportunity.

My trip to London on Monday last focused on different ways in which we can potentially work together to help bring about economic recovery across Ireland and Britain.

A meeting of the British-Irish Council was attended by British Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, as well as representatives from the Northern Irish, Scottish and Welsh Governments. 

The issue of the trade of renewable energy across the islands, and the possibility of collaboration between the UK and Ireland on wind power, was also discussed.

Later in the day, I met with British-based members of the Global Irish Network in the British Embassy.

While in London, I also welcomed the announcement of a change in the planned European Stability Mechanism (ESM), which will see loans to Ireland from private sources given the same status as loans from the ESM. The ESM is due to take over from the EU’s current bailout structure in 2013.

The Government has been campaigning for this change for some time.

The change applies only to the three current bailout countries, and will mean that current and future private sector lenders to the three countries will no longer have any fear of being “subordinated” to official European lenders in any ranking of creditors.

This is a very positive development for Ireland, and, indeed, for Europe as this new ‘level playing field’ will provide bondholders with a sense of confidence.

I took a short stroll down to the Royal College of Physicians on Wednesday for the announcement of a new alliance between the IMI (Irish Management Institute) and UCC. The partnership will allow leading research to be integrated into UCC’s teaching programmes.

It is hoped this will ultimately enhance the overall quality of Irish management, and make Ireland a leading location for executive education.

I believe the move has the potential to greatly improve the capacity of Ireland’s companies to compete internationally, by placing us at the forefront in management education and innovation, and building further on our business reputation.

I am aware of the perception that serious cutbacks in Special Needs Assistants (SNAs) in Irish schools are on the cards. This is not the case. Any child in genuine need of an SNA will continue to have access to one.

A recent report on the value for money of SNAs and the efficiency of the current situation, however, concluded that there was in fact an over-allocation of SNAs, of 27 per-cent in primary and post-primary schools, and 10 per-cent in special needs schools.

The fact is that SNAs were sometimes awarded in the past, not due to a child’s disability, but rather for therapeutic or pedagogical reasons and this simply could not be maintained in our current climate.

The Minister for Education & Skills is currently allocating 90 per-cent of the SNA posts to those most in need of assistance and will hold back the last 10 per-cent (475 posts) in order to allocate them in cases such as emergency, appeals, acquired injuries or new entrants with special needs demands.

Rory McIlroy’s victory in the US Masters last weekend was a wonderful result for Northern Ireland. It was particularly inspiring in the face of the mayhem being unleashed by a small minority in Belfast at the same time. I have no doubt Rory will have a long and successful career.

The island of Ireland, North and South, has spectacular scenery and world-class golf courses, and I have called on Tourism Ireland to begin a promotional drive in the US to capitalise on this, and to market Ireland as the ‘home of golfing champions’.

Tomorrow, I will attend the official opening of the Peace Bridge in Derry.  The opening will be even more significant in light of this week’s despicable events in the Short Strand area of Belfast. This Government will continue to work closely and co-operate with the newly-elected Assembly and Executive in Northern Ireland, as this simply cannot be allowed to continue.

Kind regards
Yours sincerely

Enda Kenny TD
Taoiseach