He revealed that the government is working on new legislation against political corruption which could see members of the Oireachtas face jail terms of up to 10 years if convicted.
Mr Kenny said the government had accepted the principle of a recommendation in the Mahon Tribunal to define ‘politically exposed persons’ who could face tough new sentencing.
You can read his full speech here:
On this day, 23 July 1929 the Fascist government in Italy banned the use of foreign words.
And indeed in the governance and workings of our Irish Republic over the last several years there were words that were not just foreign but alien.
Words such as: responsibility, ethics, probity, duty, heart, conscience, ancestors, light, spirit…
My first time addressing the Dáil as Taoiseach I used some of those foreign, those alien, words.
But I’m as adamant now as I was then that to reform our country, to rebuild our fragile and precious, our still-young, Republic we must rehabilitate those alien words. We must restore those exiled and disregarded qualities, those previously-disgraced empathies and sensibilities, to our public and our national life.
The man from up the road Seamus Heaney says, ‘you have to try and make sense of what comes’.
I believe there was national shock and disbelief at what headed our way in recent years.
How to make sense of:
Parents standing mute at airports watching their newly-adult children pack their degrees in beside their bitter disappointment and head for Australian cities where it was already tomorrow.
Hardworking men and women wishing the ground would open and swallow them as they queue for the dole.
But Seamus Heaney also said, ‘remember everything, and keep your head’.
That’s exactly what this new government did.
In the midst of the worst crisis to hit our country since the Civil War.
We kept our head.
And we kept faith with the people who elected us to make the tough decisions to do what they knew was going to be hard and uncomfortable and uncompromising.
Because they knew, as we did, that it was the right thing to do.
They knew it, they felt it, because their lives and hopes and dreams had been crushed by the actions of a broken banking system, by their bonus culture, by generations of the kind of politics where the cutest hoors of 50 years ago would look today by comparison as new and shiny as a class of Junior Infants on their first day at school.
Yes – we remembered.
And we kept our head.
Which is why we can make the necessary, tough decisions to rescue our economy, to restore our reputation, to rebuild our country.
But we know that to achieve even half of what we want to, for our people, for our country, we must do it through reform.
Reform of our public services.
Reform of our legislature.
Reform of our political system.
I have said before that to guarantee the kind of change Ireland needs, it is no longer sufficient to do what is correct.
Rather, we must do what is right.
And for Fine Gael and the Labour Party, reform is the right and urgent thing to do.
Being able to do more with less.
Achieving better, higher-quality services with lower budgets, fewer personnel.
Giving people a new pride and hope and confidence in the political process itself.
Because a Republic – Res Publica – is always and must be always about the public and their affairs.
And in addressing these public institutions, there is no time to wait
In fact the reforms are already under way.
On taking Office 16 months ago, the government gave our immediate attention to our economy and took decisive action to stop the decline.
The scale and speed of the economic collapse had exposed the inadequacies of politics and our financial institutions.
Those tasked to be in charge failed to anticipate to the risks.
It was clear to us that reform of the economic model was vital.
Competitiveness – that Celtic Tiger orphan – had to come in from the cold.
The Action Plan for Jobs has become the Government’s reforming strategy for restoring competitiveness.
It has a range of actions supporting companies and entrepreneurs to increase exports and trade, to enhance productivity, and to engage in research, development and innovation.
We’ve had too much of what I call the Briathar Saor in Irish political leadership and for too long, so in keeping with our urgent reform agenda I chose to take personal charge of the implementation of this ‘Action’ Plan.
We are determined to reform the previously ‘sheltered ‘sectors of the economy so we can address high business and consumer costs.
We’re in the process of introducing new legislation to open up the legal and medical sectors to more competition and transparency when it comes to pricing.
Of course, there are those who want and need the status quo.
Where change is required no one sector or body will be exempt from the reforming zeal of this Government.
We will not allow special interests to set the national agenda.
We began by tackling government-imposed business costs, reducing red tape, beginning to restore business confidence and certainty to Ireland.
Recent statistics show our early efforts are successful.
Ireland is now back in the world top 20 for competitiveness.
Public Service Reform
The crisis also exposed the urgent need to reform our public services to make them fit for the 21stcentury’s challenges and demands.
This government does not have the luxury of an endless pot of money to fund all and sundry. We inherited quite the opposite, we have to do more with less. However, through the dedication and professionalism of our public servants we will succeed in creating a more modern and responsive public service.
It will involve the necessary and difficult task of looking at all Government entities and judging whether they can continue to stand alone.
We are also overseeing the downsizing of the public service to 282,500 by 2015 while protecting front line services as best we can.
Last week saw an important change to sick pay arrangements for the public service that will result in increased productivity, reduced absenteeism and a significant reduction in the costs.
Also on the agenda is pension reform. Our Programme for Government commits to capping taxpayer subsidies for all future pensions – public and private – that deliver income in retirement of more than €60,000.
It will be a matter for the Government to consider over the coming months how this is best achieved and phased in.
These measures should be seen as stepping stones along the way to the delivery of a new universal, national pension system that is seen by the Irish public – men and women, public and private – to be fairer, more sustainable and more effective at supporting people in their retirement.
Our health and social services too are commencing a programme of transformation.
We’ve reinventing our welfare system with Pathways to Work. We’re ending passive welfare payments and moving to a new service of work activation, to better support and encourage job seekers back into the work force. By removing welfare traps we’re committing ourselves to the national idea that is always better to go and do a good day’s work than to be dependent on welfare.
In Health, we’ve responded with some clarity to the mandate we got from the people to radically reform our health services.
We want to build a single-tier health service supported by universal health insurance to guarantee equal access to the best possible medical care based not on what money the patient has but on the treatment they need.
Publishing the HSE Governance Bill last week was the first step in the major and long-overdue health reform to be undertaken.
In terms of political reform it’s a case of ‘physician, heal thyself’.
To drive the scale of reform for which we have such passion and hope and commitment we must begin by reforming the political system itself.
Because I believe our political system has failed and abjectly so to live up to the vision and the ideals of its founders of this State.
This day three years ago, here at MacGill, I stood before you and stated that ‘our political system is broken. Our political culture is discredited. We cannot fix our economy or create a just society unless and until we also fix our politics.’
Ireland needed A New Politics
During the election people kept faith with us.
With our reform agenda we now show we are keeping faith with them.
With our reforming zeal we show them that the finer qualities, the high standards of their own lives will be demanded and reflected and enshrined at the heart and in the heart of their Government.
Because the government, that I lead, believes that corruption is not a victimless crime.
It ruins lives livelihoods a country’s standing reputation.
It was the same attitude to power and governance that left Ireland utterly incapable of dealing with the crisis that headed its way over those bleak midwinter days in 2010 when talk of the IMF was like a game of chicken played across Merrion Street by people who should know and who were tasked to know and to do so much better.
Since coming to power, as a reforming government, we have been developing further, direct action, to tackle corruption.
Last week new legislation was passed to bring greater transparency and accountability to the political funding system.
Under this government, there is now an effective ban on corporate donations above €200 unless corporate donors register with SIPO.
Political donations to political parties and individuals are also being significantly reduced across the board.
The anonymous donation threshold is being reduced to €100.
There is now transparency. There will be no more doubt, no more suspicion in the relationship between business and politics.
As for corrupt politicians themselves, the days of ‘getting away with it’ are over. Minister Alan Shatter is working on innovative legislation which will include provisions for the conviction of Ministers, TDs and civil servants. If convicted of a corruption offence, Oireachtas members could be subject of a court order to forfeit their Office and be excluded from seeking office again for up to 10 years.
This government is cleaning up politics. We are delivering on our promise to make the institutions more transparent and accountable to the Irish people.
Included in this pathway to transparency and accountability is:
Comprehensive legislation on the protection of whistleblowers and on the registration of lobbyists.
Enhanced Central Bank regulatory powers including strengthening its ability to impose and supervise compliance with regulatory requirements and to undertake timely interventions.
The separation of civil and criminal aspects of cases by Revenue
The Mahon Report confirmed our own political instinct the need to act swiftly and decisively to ensure a fully accountable, fully transparent political and planning system.
Last week the whole-of-Government Response was published summarising all the actions on each of the 64 recommendations.
In short, 43 recommendations already have or will be implemented, partly or fully, while 18 recommendations remain under consideration as Government considers new policies and reforms in these areas, and only three recommendations are not proposed to be implemented at this time.
Public trust is a fragile and precious commodity and is something that has been missing from Irish politics in recent years. I am determined to restore faith, hope and trust in our political institutions through the programme of reforms being pursued.
Dáil & Seanad Reform
The Tribunals and the collapse of the economy showed the governed, that those who did the governing, were unfit for office, their systems unfit for purpose
A sorry state of affairs for our Republic.
We’ve done the most important thing of all here in our reform of the political system – we’ve made a start.
Small steps on Dáil Reform.
To make day-to-day practice of politics more real and accountable.
Such as overhauling the committee system and introducing Friday sittings.
I am certain that we can do no less than any of this if we are to stop the further pollution of our society
Re-establish a moral code and proper order to public life
Restore public confidence in politics and government, in what is means to be a real ‘citizen’ of a ‘real Republic’.
This Government has committed itself to holding a referendum on the abolition of the Seanad; a referendum which will give the Irish people the final decision on whether Ireland should have a second house.
Some have argued that the citizens of our Republic should not be allowed to take this decision. That the only choice they should be given is between the current Seanad, which even its defenders acknowledge is not working, and some type of reformed second house.
I respectfully disagree.
The political system has been talking about Seanad reform for seventy-five years. And nothing has happened.
It is time for the Irish people to be consulted.
Reform of the Seanad has not occurred for many reasons. In my view the key reason is this: There is simply no consensus in our country about what role a second house might play.
Some argue that it should be fully elected with greatly extended powers.
Others that it should be a non-elected expert chamber with more limited powers, populated with people from outside the political system.
Still others propose that the Seanad should be some form of Citizens’ assembly.
The difficulty with all of these suggestions, of course, is that they are mutually incompatible.
It is precisely this lack of consensus which means that reform never happens.
All across this country people are being asked on a daily basis to make sacrifices. To do more, much more, with less.
I believe the political system must do the same.
It is time for the Irish people to be asked whether we really need a second house.
Next Steps in Reform Agenda
We must remember to tread with care and purpose if we are stay on our reforming path.
Back to Seamus Heaney: remember everything and keep your head.
Just five years ago, the Fianna Fail/Green/PD programme for government contained worthy promises to improve local government, to foster civic participation, and to pursue electoral and political funding reform, by establishing an electoral commission.
Reforming promises are not enough. Reforming action is what is required.
Which is why we have already announced the beginning of the work of the Constitutional Convention, where ordinary Irish citizens and politicians from north and south, come together to discuss constitutional reform – a new concept in our country.
It is much more than fostering civic participation. The Constitutional Convention will be an influential adviser to government.
We will be guided by its advice and recommendations.
This is the people’s year in terms of political and constitutional participation.
I would like this Convention to move from Dublin to Cork or Galway on occasion so that geographically our commitment to the Constitution is seen and felt more widely as a living, real thing.
The Convention will discuss six issues minimum and will make recommendations to government on whether referendums on these issues are required or not.
Given that the government has already committed to a referendum on Child Protection and the abolition of the Seanad, the possibility of six more may require the government to reconsider the concept of a Constitution Day – a symbolic day to recognise the work of Irish citizens in remoulding the Irish Constitution to take account of the values and changes of 21st century Ireland.
Our local government system has seen no major reform since the just after the Famine.
We are adamant that we will make local government a viable and trustworthy organ of the State and an integral part of a reformed political system.
We must because local government impacts our people in almost every aspect of their lives.
Right now in Ireland, local government is lost.
But we can’t blame local government itself.
It has languished while successive governments ruminated over reports promising reform as opposed toactioning reform.
Our citizens became disillusioned with and disconnected from their councils.
And no wonder. Because are local communities best served by having 114 local authorities, 1,640 Councillors, 8 regional authorities and 2 regional assemblies?
It’s time to radically reform how local democracy works, how services are delivered.
Key to this is consistency, and connection with the community, the citizen.
It’s time to address the democratic anomaly whereby local authorities are responsible for services and rates that have a huge impact on local businesses but have no direct responsibility for helping local business to develop.
We must move to the situation where local government sees local businesses as integral… productive parts of the local community not merely as taxable entities.
With new responsibilities will come new methods and levels of accountability which will be greatly enhanced by the sweeping changes in national legislation on corruption, ethics and reporting.
Local government has serious potential to bridge the gap between people and politics.
I’m excited by the democratic possibilities here. It is right that the party that founded the State, declared it a Republic, should now be instrumental in breathing new life into government at local level.
Reform and rebuilding suggest a modern, a lean – and for the times – a somewhat astringent approach to our national life.
As we reform and rebuild and renew our country, we look to our political DNA, to our political ancestors, the men and women who founded this State, directly out of the real possibility of there being no shared sense of a ‘national’ life at all.
15 years after his father John A Costello declared this Irish Republic, his son Declan Costello published his Towards a Just Society.
“We have, it is true, achieved freedom from foreign rule for most of our country, and our citizens enjoy freedom from arbitrary arrest, but freedom is much more than the absence of tyranny . . . it only becomes real when economic and social conditions permit the full development of the human personality.”
After too many years of too much Fianna Fail, the self-styled republican party, we are again in a battle for our freedom, for our sovereignty, this time, economic.
Reclaiming and re-establishing the economic sovereignty of this Republic is a key priority for this government.
Because it is only then that we will see again the social conditions that allow all our citizens to flourish.
Nothing less than flourishing is what our proud people deserve.
Reform, rebuilding, renewal are central to this objective.Tags: