Presidential Address - Eric Keane Conference 2012

Taoiseach, Ministers, Deputies, Senators, members of the National Executive and fellow members of Young Fine Gael.Eric_Keane_Conference_2012

I want to begin by simply thanking you, our most loyal and hardworking members, for your work and toil, your commitment and energy. It is because of your work that we continue to be the largest youth political organisation in the country; it is because of your commitment and the dedication of those that came before us that Fine Gael is not only the largest party in Ireland today but the party the most represents young Ireland at all levels of government. At the election 12 TD's are under the age of 35, the best record yet.

Indeed, most of the Ministers and TD's we have heard from today began their political careers in your branches and in rooms like this. I remember my first conference, the now Deputy Simon Harris was running for the National Executive. Ministers Varadkar and Creighton had just been elected two of the country's youngest councillors of the time.

I have tried hard, very hard to exhume their manifesto commitments to YFG but, fortunately, it seems they have gone the way of Shergar.

Members, let us go back to 15 months to November 2010 to our last conference in Charleville. We went into that conference with the feeling that soon, very soon, Fine Gael would be called to do what we have always done before, rescue our country from financial ruin, but none of us thought it would come so soon.

Not many of you may know this but at our last conference one of our colleagues from the Youth of the Europeans Peoples Party was with us then and she received a phone call from the Spanish Commissioners office. It was truly embarrassing when she could tell us the truth that Ireland was about to be bailed out, while our Government continued to lie.

What followed was a General Election, where the leader of our Party, Enda Kenny, led Fine Gael to its greatest victory – a victory that Young Fine Gael is proud to have played our part in.

The main issue during the election and the main issue today is the problem of jobs for young people. Everybody in this room is affected by our country's problems and all of us know that it is young people of Ireland that are paying the ultimate price of having to emigrate in search of a job.

The Taoiseach has repeatedly stated the first priority of his government is the creation of jobs, so that we can stem the tide of emigration. This has to remain that number one focus of government. [JOBS INIATIVE] The salary that comes with a job is obviously the most important part of work. But you ask anybody on the dole it is also the pride and independence and the ambition that comes with a job that makes it so important. Work gives people that ambition and drive to succeed. And delegates, we are an ambitions generation. No generation of Irish people before us has the self confidence that our generation has. We will re-build our country if we are given the opportunity to do it.

Therein lies the duty of both Fine Gael and Young Fine Gael. By our actions to show young Ireland that we are living and working every day to make this one of the most successful countries in the world where the greatest of ambitions can be achieved.

The theme of this conference is "A Bright New Start" because that is exactly what Ireland needs. We have to be the generation that sees through short termism and vested or sectorial interests for what they are and what they have done to this country. They have led to the corrosion of any sense of responsible government in the past; they contributed to the culture of "whatever you're having yourself" and "Not-In-My-Back-Yardism" that brought this country to its knees.

And it hasn't disappeared. Let's look at our opposition for a moment.

We have a Technical Group and Independents who's priorities total Weed and Turf, Pink Daddy Ironed Shirts and Avoiding Jail. Some of them want to go to jail, some of them are avoiding jail and in the case of Mick Wallace, he's playing both tunes. Some of them are exercised by Slurry Tanks and Septic Tanks and Human excrement in general. The number thirteen makes an appearance.

We hear Sinn Féin but we cannot understand them. The Right Honourable Gerard Adams MP Baron of Manor of Northstead seems that have got lost on the M1 somewhere and he has been replaced by a duet piece trying out for xFactor. Burn the banks, burn the bondholder, says Mr. Doherty and Ms. Mary Lou. Send the EU home they said, burn the IMF...then negotiate with the IMF...then meet the IMF...then all of a sudden the IMF are right. Given the chance even Louis Walsh would say they are out of tune.

As for the other crowd...the other crowd...Fianna Fail. Fianna Fail are nothing more than an enemy of the state. Let us not forget what Fianna Fail really is – our country's shame. Let us not forget that it's Fianna Fail that caused this mess, not the troika!

Delegates, I have been member of YFG for 8 years and I have been on the National Executive since 2007. In that time the organisation has adopted many policies and many positions on issues far and wide. But I have never seen such unity within Young Fine Gael on one issue and that is the Croke Park Agreement.

Young Fine Gael has stated time and again that we believe the Croke Park Agreement is unaffordable and that it must be re-negotiated. To be clear, we do not believe that lower paid public servants should have their pay cut. People on low wages have to be protected.

It is an agreement that purports to protect the lower paid but is actually sheltering public servants on hundreds of thousands of euro a year. That simply cannot stand.

What we need is a revolution in the public service. Automatic increments based on length of service rather than ability or any professional performance criteria go against the principle of enterprise and reward that this Party stands for. Increments should not be paid because people were another year in the job and have more grey hair.

But in Unionville, anybody that points out this simple fact are branded an enemy of the lower paid and of waging a war against the public service. Young Fine Gael is not an enemy of the public service and never has been. Young Fine Gael believes that Ireland needs a strong, flexible and efficient public service. Where people that are talented, creative, hardworking are rewarded and promoted. And people who believe that racking up the years is enough are politely shown the door.

Let us be honest and say that the implementation of Croke Park is a choice, a choice by both the government and the trade unions. It is a choice to maintain the salaries of some of the highest paid and cossetted people of the country in the public service in exchange for industrial peace. It is a choice to back down to Unions who have failed their own members.

It is a choice to continue with the farce whereby the most motivated, passionate and innovative public servants are treated the same as some of their colleagues who would be sacked if it were the private sector.

The challenges we face today are perhaps the most difficult since the foundation of the state. They go far beyond changing the tax code or implementing cuts to one programme or another. To quote an Taoiseach, what we need is "fundamental change".

There will be vested interests who will seek to drag the government off its course of reform. They will delay, prevaricate, throw up road blocks and offer up every conceivable excuse why they should be exempted. We have to have the confidence in ourselves and our Party to stay the course.

Delegates, there is an enormous difference between disagreement and disloyalty. As Fine Gaelers, our first loyalty is to the State. We demonstrate our loyalty to Fine Gael and the principles for which it stands by telling our colleagues in the Parliamentary Party when they are right and when they are wrong. Other youth wings in other political parties who slavish followed their party line on every issue and defended the indefensible out of blind loyalty ultimately helped destroy their own party's. Young Fine Gael will not do this. We will tell the Parliamentary Party when they are wrong. In case you haven't copped it, lads, you're wrong on Croke Park.

Ladies and Gentlemen, it has been an honour and a pleasure to lead this organisation.

No speech in youth politics would be complete without a quote from the West Wing. To quote the acting President of the United States, Jed Bartlett, "decisions get made by those who show up". It is not an easy thing to put your name to a membership form and say this is what I believe in, this is what I stand for. Take pride in it and keep with it.

We got involved in politics for one reason and one reason alone – because we simply love our country and we are committed to its future success. As long as we remain honest with ourselves, recognise what is right and have the courage to say it and do it, then Young Fine Gael and Fine Gael will flourish.

Your New National Executive
Motions passed at #YFG12
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