Good evening. First of all, I would like to thank my nominator and seconder Tony McBride and Eithne Loftus. Both have been an immense help as I got started in this constituency.
This evening, I am asking for your support in this selection convention as part of a two person ticket alongside Minister Leo Varadkar. Over the last three months, as I’ve started to work in this constituency, people have approached me asking: why here, and what do you hope to achieve? I might try and set out my answers to those questions, and my reasons for seeking your nomination, this evening.
Dublin West is a strong constituency – as evidenced by the great turnout here tonight. It is arguably now our strongest constituency North of the Liffey, with a great team of Councillors, a Minister, and now two Senators. If we look back at the history of the constituency, we can see that there have been two candidates in most of our elections – indeed our most recent election here in 2011 was a two-candidate strategy, so it’s by no means unusual to have two candidates.
When answering the “why”, we also have to address the other large looming issue for the party as a whole: gender quotas. We, as a party, have to have 30% of our candidates reach this benchmark. It’s as straightforward as that, there are no “ifs”, “buts” or special exemptions. If we don’t, we lose half of our state funding. If we try and do it in such a way that we start throwing women onto tickets a month out from the election, we’ll keep our state funding but we’ll seriously damage our credibility. As a party, we need a sustained, holistic approach to this, so in this respect, we need to have female candidates who are credible, competent and able to work the ground.
If selected, I would primarily be working the new part of the constituency, towards the Navan Road, an area that used to be part of Dublin Central, so you can see the rationale behind the “why”.
What do I hope to achieve? Well, it’s clear that Dublin West Fine Gael have been doing a good job in Government, and now we need to bring our message to the people and hope they give us the mandate to continue doing a great job both for the constituency and the country. In that spirit, I want to bring about the best possible result for Fine Gael in Dublin West. I’m not saying necessarily that we’ll win two seats – but can we push our combined to 30%? I don’t think that’s an impossible goal, certainly not when I see the strength in depth of both our branch and our local representation.
We have a great message to sell to people: a message where unemployment has been cut from 15% of our population to likely around 9% of the population by the time of the election, a message where we decreased USC at least once, if not twice by the time of the election, and eased the taxation burden on the worker, a message where we protected the most vulnerable in our society at a time of huge, huge uncertainty, a message where we lifted this country off its knees and have brought it back to a place where every individual and every family can begin to not only dream about a better tomorrow for themselves, but actively plan for it.
And the alternative? We only need to look to Greece. Ruth Coppinger’s deal old pal Tsipras is running Greece into the ground at a rate of knots: turning to Russia for assistance, up to 40% of savings being pulled out of banks, unemployment increasing, the end of any small economic growth that Greece had. The difference is stark. We can see this difference. Now we need to sell this difference. People need to realise how our own recovery could slip back if a ragtag group of socialists and Sinn Fein were to come to power. We need a second term in Government, not alone to finish our job, but to make sure that our hard-fought gains aren’t squandered away.
I’ve been a lifelong member of Fine Gael and, like many of you, I have seen us patch up the broken engine of our economy time and time again, only to have another party take over at the vital moment of economic recovery and drive us right back into the ditch. Not this time. This can’t happen again. We’ve come too far and fought too hard.
We need to work diligently, and though it won’t be easy, we need to ensure that we maximise our vote in every single constituency in the country – and that work starts right here in Dublin West. Therefore, I’m asking you for your support this evening as part of a two-person ticket, and I hope you might be able to lend me that. From here, we can work to maximise our vote in Dublin West and work to ensure a second term in Government. Thank you.