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Speech by President Dale McDermott to the 27th Young Fine Gael National Conference - News - Young Fine Gael

Speech by President Dale McDermott to the 27th Young Fine Gael National Conference

Politics is often an arena where thanks are never uttered. Instead we focus on what needs to be improved upon.

Well, I want to start off by saying thank you.

Thank you to you the members of Young Fine Gael for allowing me to lead this great organisation over the last 15 months. It has been the greatest honour of my life to lead Young Fine Gael to where we are now. Being President teaches you a lot about politics, about our country, and its people. But most of all, it teaches you a lot about yourself. I am a better person because of this job and for that I thank you.

Young Fine Gael has changed. We are now the only youth political organisation winning the ideas war. It is we who campaigned for fairer transport fares for students, and delivered on it. It is we who have led the debate on youth unemployment, when others merely pontificated in political point scoring. It is we who proposed a pre-budget submission with new, out of the box solutions, to our most common problems. We challenged issues such as the age of consent and banning alcohol on Good Friday – contributing to the national debate and in some cases, starting it. We have created five key and substantial policy documents in the last fifteen months – more to say on the issues affecting young people than any other youth political organisation. To those denigrate what we do and who we are, I say judge us on our record – I stand by it.
Since our last National Conference, the Local and European elections occurred. Young Fine Gael campaigned strongly in these elections and while some were not successful, many came through, including Councillor Maura Hopkins, who spoke earlier. This was a difficult election for the party and I want to pay tribute to everyone who helped Young Fine Gael to make an impact.

We should never be afraid to speak our minds, to think the hard ideas. The day we do is the day we lose our relevance. The challenge for the future, indeed the fight for our generation's future, lies in the battle to win the next General Election.

The choice is clear. We can continue to support a strong, stable and competent government who have released us from the economic shackles of the troika and secure the recovery. We can go back to Fianna Fáil who simply cannot even be trusted to run a small lemonade stand let alone an economy worth over 174 billion euro. Or we can divert, take a chance on Sinn Fein and give it to a collection of economic illiterates whose answer to two plus two would always be thirty two. And then you have Reboot Ireland, previously known as the Reform Alliance. The official name of the new party is set to be unveiled quite soon but I think we already have it – Reboot Ireland Reform Alliance, or also known by its shorted acronym, RIRA ... maybe they will go into Government with Sinn Fein after all.

We need to start the fight back.

Sinn Fein – get after them. I don't want the corridors of Government Buildings to echo to the historic sounds of past mistakes. It is our duty to stand up and take these sorry excuses head on. The theme of our conference is 'Towards 2016' with the colours of our republic, green, white and orange as our colour scheme.
That is not their flag. They do not own it. The Irish people own it. It is time to rest the flag from the protest wielding party.

Their claim to owning the 1916 Rising and being at the very centre of fighting for this State is detestable. Michael Collins, Arthur Griffith, WT. Cosgrave fought for and established this State. Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness bombed it while the so called new and fresh faced front bench, led by Mary Lou and Pearse Doherty, sit there complicit in the denial of Sinn Fein's shameful past. They proclaim to be different, in their own words – they are not the establishment. Twelve million dollars. Sinn Fein raised twelve million dollars from their friends in big business, property, even Hollywood and they tell us they're different? How dare they. Fine Gael is the party who has shredded the link between big business and politics with the banning of corporate donations. We can be proud on our record.

I turn to Fianna Fáil and to be honest I'm finding it hard to say anything about them. Who are the Fianna Fáil party now? What do they even stand for? They don't even have a policy on health for God's sake. With the health service undergoing its biggest reform in many years under the safe stewardship of Minister for Health Leo Varadkar, Micheál Martin and his deputies week in, week out, snipe from the side-lines criticising the health service. Micheál Martin, I've worked with Leo Varadkar. I know Leo Varadkar. Leo Varadkar is a colleague of mine. Micheál Martin, you're no Leo Varadkar. This is the same person who created the HSE – his solution to a problem was to create an even bigger one.

The challenge for the next Young Fine Gael National Executive is to support the Fine Gael party as much as possible to ensure that we get as many Fine Gael TDs elected to the next Dáil as possible. We cannot allow this country to fall back. There is far too much at stake. The prosperity of our generation depends on the next Government securing the recovery so not only do those in search of a job, get one, but that when they go looking, they have a choice of jobs. Under the leadership of An Taoiseach Enda Kenny, this Government has created over ninety thousand jobs in the last four years and if re-elected, we will see full employment by twenty eighteen. That's what I call leadership and on behalf of Young Fine Gael, I want to pay tribute to the Taoiseach for the courage and conviction that he has lead this country with over the past four years. The immediate challenge however for the next National Executive of Young Fine Gael is the Marriage Equality referendum. Young Fine Gael needs to play a significant role in this campaign.
Accepting my sexuality and being honest about me to family and friends was an agonisingly difficult and damaging journey. "Coming out" as it's termed was the hardest thing I have had to do in my entire life. For years, being gay consumed my mind – I hated it. I was depressed; I felt that I could never achieve my potential and that a limit would be placed on how far I could go. I thought I would face ridicule by those close to me, that I would be shunned by society and that the door to happiness would close for eternity. I realised after years of mental agony that hiding who I really was would mean I would never be happy. I nervously took a leap of faith and told my family and close friends that I was a gay man. Since then I haven't looked back. I can say with absolute honesty that "coming out" has made me into the person I am now - happy, confident and even more determined to achieve whatever I aspire. At the same time however, I know what it is like to be the teenager in the classroom, hiding under a thin veneer of "straightness" because of an institutionalised fear of what my peers would say and do if my veneer was scratched. I know what it's like to feel that the only way I can fix my problem is by pretending it simply doesn't exist or even during my darkest days, by ending it all entirely. No one should have to go through that mental roller coaster especially during his or her teenage years. Sadly, for some, this is what being gay is like in our modern day republic.

Equality and freedom is the basis of any republic. While gay Irishmen and Irishwomen enjoy freedom, they are not equal. They cannot marry the person they love and that means they cannot participate in our society in a full and complete manner. Inequality is instilled in our minds and if you were a gay teenager in a classroom at the moment, how would you feel knowing that in 21st century Ireland, you are not equal and you cannot marry the person you love? The thought process would of course be negative and in my personal circumstance it added to my mental woes. In May, Ireland will be given the opportunity to right what has been a wrong inflicted on the LGBT community in our country. Not only will a Yes vote bring forth a new dawn on the night that exists for many gay people throughout this country, it will also tell the teenager in the classroom who is struggling with their sexuality, like me only a few years ago, that it is okay to be who you are in modern day Ireland, that it is okay to feel strongly for someone, no matter their gender.
I don't want to have to leave my country that I have grown up in for twenty-two years but I feel that if Ireland decides to keep the status quo and deny marriage equality, I will have to. This is a great country. On May 22nd, Ireland will vote on Marriage Equality. On that same day, I will finish the final examination of my college degree. I hope that on May 23rd, I wake up an equal citizen in my country. A country that welcomes and embraces diversity. One that grants equal rights to each and every one of its citizens, including the right to marry. The alternative is that I enter an Ireland that simply does not believe its gay citizens deserve the same rights as everyone else. A country disguised as an Orwellian Animal Farm that would proclaim I am equal; just some citizens are more equal than others.

I will therefore have to decide if that is a country that I want to live in and the answer at the moment is sadly no. I want the rest of my life to be exciting, fun, challenging but most of all; I want to share my life with someone who I love. If Ireland rejects the referendum on marriage equality, I will be forced to leave my family and friends because my country will refuse me the right to share my life with the person I love.

Our forefathers believed in equality. From the very roots of ours nation's beginnings, equality, liberty and fraternity were etched in their minds when dreaming of the much yearned for republic.

"The Republic guarantees religious and civil liberty, equal rights and equal opportunities to all its citizens, and declares its resolve to pursue the happiness and prosperity of the whole nation and all of its parts, cherishing all of the children of the nation equally and oblivious of the differences carefully fostered by an alien government, which have divided a minority from the majority in the past".

The words of our proclamation.

I speak not only to you in this room, but also to the country.

Please don't make me leave my country. Please support marriage equality.

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