Belturbet/Cavan Convention- 1st November 2013

I would like to welcome you all here to the Belturbet/Cavan Convention. A special thank you to our esteemed Chairman for the night, Mr. Jim Higgins MEP, and welcome to my colleagues, Heather and Sean. To those contesting tonight’s Convention, Madeleine, Jacqui and Peter,I wish each of you the very best of luck.

In eight short months, we will be at the centre of our Local Election Campaign. But as everyone knows, the real campaign will start after tonight.
Going into the Local Elections next year, as a Party in Government, will not be easy.
We all are aware of that fact.
However, I know that tonight we have a strong team for the new Cavan/Belturbet District and this team will lead us to victory.
This particular administration had a hard task ahead of them when they took office in 2011. We inherited a situation where our economy was in freefall, shrinking by over 8%, Our National Debt had ballooned to over €95 billion and 444,000 people were out of work.
We have had some tough Budgets in recent years however; Budget 2014 was our last Austerity Budget.

The last few weeks brought a certain amount of scaremongering and embellishment of facts from the opposition.
I think it is important to stress the reality, that this year’s Budget has resulted in the protection of the all core Social Welfare payments, ensuring that those who are most vulnerable are protected. This Government have realised that savings are not made through cutting the core rates of Social Welfare, instead, they are made by simply getting people back to work. Today, our Live Register figures are the lowest since May 2009. In Cavan, Live Register figures have dropped by over 300 people since last year.
Although, this is nowhere close to where we want to be, we need to take into account that for every person that leaves the Live Register, the Exchequer saves €20,000.

Contrary to some, we have much to look forward to. Ireland’s international reputation has now been restored and by the end of this year we will have successfully exited the Bailout.
These are all major achievements and we have really come a long way from where we began in 2011.
Under this Government, unemployment is no longer seen as a long term reality for people.
That is why we have devised some exciting new schemes to assist the unemployed and help them to get back into the workforce.

For many people, further training and education is not for them and they may not suit the current job activation schemes that are available.
That is why the new ‘Start Your Own Business’ Scheme is being introduced to specifically encourage budding entrepreneurs and we have many of those in Cavan! Under this new initiative, a two year exemption from income tax will be provided for individuals who have been unemployed for at least fifteen months.
There is also a new Home Renovation Tax Incentive Scheme coming on stream.
This will provide a tax credit to homeowners carrying out works such as extensions, renovations and plumbing, to their homes. This move will support fully tax compliant builders and provide a much needed boost to our Construction Sector.
The foundations for the recovery of our Construction industry are now set and we will begin to see renewed confidence, extra activity and most importantly, more jobs.

Despite everything, our Agricultural Schemes are surviving well, with over €1.2 billion allocated to the Department for next year.
This is welcome news as it will ensure that the vulnerable sectors are supported and the incomes of family farms are protected.
Last week I was pleased to hear that the Department paid out over €15 million in to over four-thousand Cavan Farmers under the Single Farm Payment Scheme.
There is now greater support for small farm holdings in disadvantaged areas and new taxation measures to restructure, modernise and promote growth in the agri-food and farming sector.
We cannot over-emphasise the importance of the agri- food sector here in Cavan.
We have 5,279 farms in the County with approximately 15,000 people employed directly from them, giving us a farm income of €74million a year. The Agri-food sector is very strong in Cavan and we have twenty large food and drink employers in the County providing 1860 people with jobs. This is something that we should be very proud of and do everything we can to support, protect and encourage.

This Government received a mandate to radically reform our health service, putting the patient firmly at the centre.
Free GP Care to all is the foundation stone of this mandate and next year, this Government will deliver the first phase of GP care to children up to five years of age. This reform will ensure that the parents of over 240,000 children will be able to visit a doctor without worrying about the cost. We gave a commitment to achieving Universal Health Insurance for every citizen of this country, ensuring that everyone is treated on the basis of their medical needs, and not on whether they can afford to pay for their care.

We can never go back to the ‘old way of doing things’. Our Party knew that when we came into power and we understand that a change of tack and a fresh approach was badly needed. I know that the candidates that are selected tonight will provide the people of Cavan/Belturbet will have a strong voice for that change.

Senator Joe O'Reilly representing Cavan & Monaghan 2010. | An ExSite website