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Speech by Gay Mitchell MEP at Fine Gael Presidential Convention - News - Young Fine Gael

Speech by Gay Mitchell MEP at Fine Gael Presidential Convention

Taoiseach agus Uachtarán Fhine Gael, a dhaoine uaisle agus a chairde uilig, Is mór an onóir dom a bheith i bhur measc inniú.

The oath of office taken by the President of Ireland reads, as follows

"In the presence of Almighty God I, do solemnly and sincerely promise and declare that I will maintain the Constitution of Ireland and uphold its laws, that I will fulfil my duties faithfully and conscientiously in accordance with the Constitution and the law, and that I will dedicate my abilities to the service and welfare of the people of Ireland. May God direct and sustain me."

I do not appeal to any one class. I appeal to what John Bruton called those who are striving to cope. Those who keep the country going in factory and farm, office and outdoor worker, and If I am elected President, I will place my hand on the Bible and take this oath of office. I will abide by it in the letter and in the spirit of the Constitution and the law, with every nerve and sinew and every ounce of energy and commitment I have.

Our country is at a crossroads. We have met with triumph and disaster, let us treat those two imposters just the same. We are in an economic mess, our ethics and moral fibre are being tested. There are very real signs of a society in need of renewal. I have set out for you in my letters an ethos, a framework, which I believe will lead to that renewal.

Recently, I attended the funeral of Declan Costello whose political principles and approach to public service convinced me to join Fine Gael at the age of 16. Since then my political conviction is informed by an ethos, based on four pillars: rights, responsibilities, enterprise and social justice. These values have guided me in public life for 32 years and will guide me if elected President.

I believe that they are the values that will help equip Ireland to overcome some of our present economic and ethical difficulties and make us a country which others will again want to emulate, as they once did.

A Republic which nurtures a just society is one, in my view, where the principles of rights, responsibilities, enterprise and social justice are intertwined. It's easy to talk of rights and social justice but rights bring with them responsibilities for ourselves and others. Social justice through, for example, accessible education and decent health services can be provided only if the enterprising spirit is encouraged so as to create the wealth to pay for these services. This is not a question of unregulated greed – we can see where that got us. For enterprise to thrive there must be rules and a person who by the sweat of his/her brow makes a real effort should harvest the product of what they have sown. That is what gives incentive and encourages innovation.

I also believe in unity in diversity, but not a diversity that includes only the politically correct, real unity requires respect for all diversity. Respect must be mutual so as to be really inclusive and tolerant. I have firmly held beliefs and it is my disposition to try to see things from the point of view of those who do not share my beliefs. All I ask is that they do the same. Mutual respect demands this. I want an inclusive and tolerant Ireland where religious believers are respected as are non-believers. Where who your father was, where you were born or the colour of your skin does not delimit your opportunities.

Respect for diversity must apply to all of the Island, including to those with an Irish, Irish and British, and Irish and European identity. We must be prepared to end the mental partition that segregates the people of Ireland, by respecting those who see things from a different perspective. Having studied Irish Politics at Queen's University Belfast, I am convinced that the whole of the Island can pull together to our mutual benefit. I would like to build on my experience in Belfast and, with the assistance of Senator Martin McAleese and others, continue the good work of our President in breaking down barriers.

I believe so much in diversity that I even married a Northsider. Norma has lived with me all 31 years of our married life on the southside. Now that there is to be a vacancy in the Phoenix Park perhaps it is time to see things from her point of view and move to the other side of the Liffey!

60m people died in Europe in the two world wars of the first half of the 20th century. Joining the EU was by far the best thing Ireland did internationally. We Europeans have learned to live together, it is not a perfect arrangement and at times it is overpowering for some. We can influence that power balance by taking time, networking, persuading, meeting and greeting, and impressing with intelligent argument. I am now the Leader of Fine Gael in the European Parliament. I was European Affairs Minister during the Rainbow Government's Presidency of the EU. Using my political experience, which is much broader than my service in Europe, I will work unceasingly to ensure that balance is in our favour.

In the developing world 23,000 children die every day. The good news is that it used to be 36,000 children per day. We in Ireland can be proud that we helped in a significant way to save these 13,000 lives each day, and we can further reduce this number dramatically. I have dedicated much of my time, on your behalf, in Parliament to leading on this issue. As the world's population expands in the southern hemisphere by 2 billion people in the coming generation we can make a thriving developing world our trading partner and we will not then be the recipients of forced mass migration. We have no history of colonial possession; we have a proud history of missionaries and NGOs working in the developing world. As President I would like to play a role where Ireland gives leadership to the world on this crucial issue. We have the credentials to do so. This too will enrich us, for it is in giving that we receive.

I don't intend to make any only grand public statements and draw public debate on the ethos I will promote. I also intend to take a crusade parish by parish to tell the people what I believe is the formula for a fairer society, for a better society, for a more ethical society and for a happier society.

Very sadly suicide in Ireland is at a level previously unknown. At last we can talk about it. Every day I remember the souls of people I have known who have died in this way and think of their families. Shockingly the list of those I remember is growing. Why?

We need to return to a society based on principles, a less harsh and a more merciful and forgiving society. Yes, there is something broken in our society and I believe the ethos I am proposing has the potential to help us to repair that brokenness and to become not just more ethical and happier but more gentle.

I am a Fine Gael person to the bone. As President I will be an Irish person to the bone and I will put the welfare of our people at the heart of the Presidency. The Presidency can be a very powerful institution. It can symbolise all that is good about our way of life. I would like to continue much of the practice of President Mc Aleese, quietly working, usually below the radar, to make our country a better place.

I hope that by example I can help others to start on a new journey in search of values that will take us through 2016 and all that that iconic year will stand for.

That we will become the Ireland that our original ideals of statehood set out to achieve. That we and our children will be proud to be Irish because of how we bear witness to the values of the Proclamation we all learned at school: to guarantee religious and civil liberty, equal rights and equal opportunities, to pursue the happiness and prosperity of the whole nation and all of its parts, cherishing all of the children equally.

Right now our country needs commitment to public service and I seek the Presidency for no other reason than to offer to provide that service in a manner which I believe will meet the public need in a new way. A way that will make a real difference for the better.

I want to be President of an Ireland that is a Republic in the real sense of the word. I feel that my election would, in its own way, help show that our Republic has come of age and that the office is not the preserve of any elite.

I had two really uplifting e-mails, one from Richard Looby, aged 17, from Waterford; the other from 3rd year college student Emma Doyle from Dublin. Both Hoping I will become President. I hope I can justify their hopes and confidence, because we are at a crossroads. It is not time for experimentation. It is time for conviction, principle, positive symbolism, leadership, hope, and dedication to duty. These may be old fashioned words but they are of enduring quality, and will give real prospects for the future of our young people.

Though I do not feel worthy of your generous and trusting words Richard and Emma, I promise you and all of the people of Ireland I will not let you down. I will remember what I learned at my parents knee and I will make them proud, and I will make our country proud.

As I have said on another occasion: My life's journey has taken me from the home of my widowed mother in Inchicore to the Dáil, the Mansion House, Iveagh House and Brussels. From the President's study in the Aras, which I visited many times as Minister, the floodlights of C.I.E. Works, where I worked as a boy, are visible as a clear landmark. If I am elected President, this landmark shall be a daily reminder of where I came from and that my sworn duty is to serve the welfare of the people as well as to uphold the Constitution and the law.

Can we do it? Can I do it? Of course we can. I have the experience, the history and the heart.

Go raibh míle maith agaibh.

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