FG national conference

Follow our updates from the party's gathering in Limerick

Steven Carroll, Harry McGee Sat, Oct 12
LIVE: FG national conference

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  • 10:01
    Good morning from the Fine Gael national conference at the South Court Hotel in Co Limerick.
  • 10:02
    Harry McGee and myself (Steven Carroll) will be providing updates on today's events here, which are set to kick off shortly.
  • 10:04
    Hundreds of delegates from around the country arrived here last night and the numbers are expected to swell further today. The main event is the Taoiseach's address to his party which is expected at about 8.30pm tonight
  • 10:10
    The conference kicked off at about 7.30pm last night. The chairman of the party's national executive council, Brian Murphy, was the first to take the mic and he told delegates that Fine Gael was facing into a crucial period with seven months to go until the local and European elections
  • 10:13
    The resurgence of Fianna Fail hasn't gone unnoticed among party members, and Mr Murphy was quick to criticise the damaged economy the coalition inherited on its appointment. He accused Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin of thinking he was Bobby Ewing from Dallas, and that Mr Martin appeared to think the mess left by his party "was all a dream".
  • 10:16
    Murphy also had a go at Sinn Fein. He said the party and its associates had caused untold problems and engaged in acts such as murder, extortion and bank robberies. "Sinn Fein hasn't changed as much as it would like to think," he said, adding that its plans to commemorate Shankhill bomber Thomas Begley were not right. (you can read more about that here http://www.irishtimes.com/news/ireland/irish-news/sinn-fein-defends-decision-to-commemorate-shankill-bomber-1.1553928)
  • 10:19
    Michael Noonan, who we are told lives within throwing distance of the South Court Hotel, welcomed delegates to his native Limerick. He spoke of the history of the city and drew laughs from the crowd with references to Limerick names past such as Boru and Blackadder.
  • 10:21
    Mr Noonan hailed the progress made by Fine Gael and Labour in their first two and a half years in Government. He said current trends made it seem a long time ago that Anglo Irish Bank collapsed, the previous government guaranteed bank debts and 250,000 people lost their jobs.
  • 10:25
    Noonan also took aim at Fianna Fail and said the party had deservedly been sent into "oblivion" at the time of the last general election. He said it was hard to look the last cabinet in the eye as it "staggered out of office".

    The Minister for Finance then welcomed the Taoiseach to his home town and said Enda Kenny was leading "the united Government of Fine Gael and Labour".

    Today's Irish Times lead story suggests united may be a stretch, with FG taking aim again at Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton. http://www.irishtimes.com/news/politics/burton-under-fine-gael-pressure-over-welfare-traps-1.1558262
  • 10:26
    Mr Kenny's address touched on economic recovery, social welfare traps and restoring hope and pride in the State. My take on his speech from last night can be seen here: http://www.irishtimes.com/news/politics/budget-measures-will-lead-to-surplus-says-enda-kenny-1.1558244
  • 10:36
    Delegates were treated to a session on "the regions" last night before retiring to their beds or the hotel bar. Here's parliamentary correspondent Michael O'Regan's take on that session: http://www.irishtimes.com/news/politics/regional-development-not-about-taking-projects-away-from-dublin-says-leo-varadkar-1.1558239
  • 10:40
  • 10:40
    The artwork here in the press room at the South Court Hotel could not be accused of failing to inspire...right?
  • 10:43
    They're up and running in the first session of the day - a panel discussion on Lifelong Learning. MEP Jim Higgins, Minister of State at the Department of Education Ciaran Cannon and Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald are among those scheduled to take part
  • 10:45
    Next up is a session featuring Mr Noonan, Minister for Jobs Richard Bruton, Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar and Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney. The subject of that discussion is "Jobs, Recovery and Exiting the Bailout"
  • 11:25
    Security is tight here at the South Court Hotel for the weekend, with those in attendance needing to produce accreditation, car park passes and negotiate their way through lines of gardai and private security workers before even entering the building
  • 11:26
    A small group of protestors gathered outside the hotel yesterday afternoon to state their displeasure about the introduction of property and (upcoming) water taxes under the Fine Gael regime
  • 11:28
    Here's a picture from the main hall of the conference during this morning's session on lifelong learning
  • 11:28
  • 11:34
    During that session, Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald said Ireland had much to gain from early intervention in the area of education. "If we want to improve literacy and numeracy, which is critical, then we must start early. If we want to disrupt the crisis of childhood obesity - a quarter of our three year olds are overweight or obese - then we must start early."
  • 11:37
    The second session (which is jobs focused) is up and running now and Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney has been speaking about the contribution of the agri-food sector to Irish economic recovery. He had warm words for the Irish whiskey industry, which he said was recording double digit growth in a number of countries worldwide.
  • 11:39
    "We are now entering a phase which could potentially be a golden age for Irish farming, with the prospect of quota abolition and a positive outlook for increased exports," Mr Coveney said. "The enthusiasm surrounding the agri-food sector and the increased investment by our largest food companies will provide sustainable jobs for rural communities in the long term."
  • 11:45
    Michael O'Regan has been speaking to delegates here and the mood, I'm told, is positive. The Seanad referendum has been little mentioned down here so far this weekend and party members told Michael the defeat was not too worrying as the issue failed to engage a large portion of the public. The budget is seen as far more important and they feel the Government is on the right track in that respect.
  • 11:52
    Fianna Fail a regular discussion point down here, this time it's Leo Varadkar - "Twice in my lifetime Fianna Fail brought this country to its knees. It's our job to make sure people don't forget that."
  • 11:54
    Back to economic matters, Varadkar says history will "record this Budget as the one that allows us exit the bailout and restore our sovereignty"
  • 11:56
    National executive chairman Brian Murphy last night gave a veiled dig to rebels who left the party and joined the Reform Alliance by saying he respected the loyalty Fine Gael members had shown the Government through tough times.

    Varakdar continues that line by saying there's "only one reform party in Ireland, and its name is Fine Gael"
  • 12:14
    Hi It's Harry McGee taking over from Steven Carrol. It's a national conference not an Ard Fheis so there are no motions at this event.
    The format is one that has become familiar at conferences in recent years... geared not so much for the faithful in the room but for those watching at home.
    So the stage resembles a TV studio and all the speakers sit around, with one media savvy Fine Gael representative (hi Mairead McGuinness) acting as MC.
    The session ongoing at the moment is about jobs.
    Ministers do a set speech, then there's a panel discussion hosted by Mairead and then as a bonus we get another ministerial speech.
    Leo Varadkar, Richard Bruton, Simon Coveney and Michael Noonan are the Ministers on stage at the moment.
    Noonan is sitting up front, silent and calm, Buddha-like in appearance and poise.
    He's already delivered a typical crowd-warmer.
    Is the Budget 95 per cent finished? asked McGuinness
    "Ah bits and bobs," he rejoindered, to a big appreciative laugh.
    If nothing else, he understands timing.
  • 12:21
    The last party conference that took place in this hotel, the South Court Hotel, in the suburbs of Limerick was the Progressive Democrats' last every party conference (I think)
  • 12:45
    Full attendance for jobs session.
    Full attendance for jobs session.
  • 13:12
    Michael Noonan's closing remarks to the conference at the end of his speech: "You will be astounded by the good news that I will announce in the Budget".
    It was an aside and a joke but there may be substance in it.
    As we have pointed out in The Irish Times, the combined effects of carry-overs from last year as well as the smaller than original adjustment means that Noonan has to find a relatively small €300m in new taxes.
    He hinted very heavily in his speech that rather than doing that in a straight fashion, he will introduce a number of incentives in key target areas, and raise perhaps more taxes in other areas.
    I'd say if you are looking out for one area that really needs incentive, it is construction. Apparently new house builds have slipped even lower this year. It's unlikely Noonan will do with VAT as he did with the tourism. But we may see the reappearance of some kind of grant.
  • 13:23
    Other than that, the speech contained no new information. He majored on the exit which will be a huge deal politically.
    He rightly identified the confidence it will inculcate in the markets but also, more importantly, in the citizenry back home.
    Regaining economic independence will be an obvious turning point in recent history.
    He also let it be known that the State will in all probability not require a second bailout.
    It does not take any Nostradumus-like knowledge of the future to know that the moment that happens will be a turning point for the Government.
  • 13:32
    There were a good few TDs curious to see what Joan Burton said during her interview with RTE this morning. Despite George Lee's best efforts, she gave a masterclass in deflection, responding to each question he asked with an answer that had no connection with what had been asked.
    It's a standard politicians' trick. Eamon Gilmore, as it happens, is also good at it.
  • 13:34
    Former Galway West TD Padraic McCormack has published his autobiography about his life in local and national politics. The Longford native was first elected a councillor in Galway in the 1960s. He is a former chair of the parliamentary party. He has set up a stand in the main hall.
  • 13:35
    A few words that have been airbrushed from the Fine Gael National Convention.
    1. The Seanad Referendum
    2. Lucinda Creighton
    3. Billy Timmins
    4. The Reform Alliance
    5. Political reform
  • 13:36
    Taoiseach Enda Kenny will do a doorstep interview when he arrives to the South Court Hotel before 3pm
  • 13:50
    Minister for Health James Reillyand Wicklow TD Simon Harris survey the stage ahead of debate on health at Fine Gael national conference.
    Minister for Health James Reillyand Wicklow TD Simon Harris survey the stage ahead of debate on health at Fine Gael national conference.
  • 14:03
    Health session about to start. Regina Doherty chairing. Health committee chair Jerry Buttimer, Minister for Health James Reilly on stage.
    I wonder will Reilly say anything about the Health situation.
    There's a Cabinet meeting tomorrow night at 6.30pm and there's still uncertainty about where the Dept of Health stands vis a vis its 2013 budget.
    Yesterday's meeting of Cabinet lasted little over an hour and a half and, significantly, it did not go into the details of any of the measures.
    Expect a marathon tomorrow.
  • 14:05
    We won't really see the big crowds until shortly before Enda Kenny's speech tonight. What you can say for certain is that, in general ,party politics isn't a young person's game.
    As with other parties the profile of the delegates is older. Nothing wrong with that I hasten to add.
  • 14:09
    Fred Meaney So Richard Bruton identifies Failue as the road to success. Let's hope he,a right and the Electorate will appropriately reward the failures of recent years!!
  • 14:10
    James Reilly is speaking now. Nothing on the budget so far. He is talking about the party's overarching plan to dismantle the current health system and replace it with a model based on universal health insurance.
  • 14:11
    Says systems at the moment obsessed with inputs.
  • 14:22
  • 14:32

    James Reilly's speech has made no reference to the Budget or his own difficulties at producing an estimate.
    It was a general offering in which he criticised the development of the health system as chaotic and claimed it had "failed our citizens on too many occasions".
    He has also criticised its "fixation on measuring inputs - the number of beds, the number of procedures, the hours worked, with not enough of a focus on what matters most: making sure patients get the safe, quality care they need, when they need it.
    His solution. Money Follows the Patient, or universal health insurance.
    He has said an independent international expert is close to finalising a "state of readiness" report for the system.
    He has promised that a phased implementation of this funding will being early next year.
    We will believe it when we see it.
  • 14:36
    Most controversial remarks of the days so far, at least as far as local politics is concerned.
    Roscommon TD Frank Feighan has reopened the debate on the A&E in Roscommon hospital. He says people in the north of the county went to Sligo and people in the south, where Denis Naughten lives, went to Ballinasloe. His claim is that the catchment for the Roscommon Hospital area is only 25,000.
    That's sure to prompt a response in the constituency.
  • 14:43
    Unless you are a true believer, party conferences are a trying experience. Endless dribble of soft propaganda. Health session particularly appalling in that regard.
  • 14:50
    Fine Gael TDs await their leader for doorstep interview. Fashionably late as always.
    Fine Gael TDs await their leader for doorstep interview. Fashionably late as always.
  • 14:51
    Fine Gael TDs await their leader for doorstep interview. Fashionably late as always.
    Fine Gael TDs await their leader for doorstep interview. Fashionably late as always.
  • 15:16
    Taoiseach Enda Kenny talks to media at Fine Gael national conference in Limerick.
    Taoiseach Enda Kenny talks to media at Fine Gael national conference in Limerick.
  • 15:35
    Taoiseach gave an eight minute interview as he entered the building. Stressed the importance of exiting the bailout.
  • 15:36
    Taoiseach on the Budget: "While it's never an easy situation, and the Budget will be tough, it's important to see it as a stepping stone to a new future of prosperity and opportunity for our people."
  • 15:37
    Asked about Noonan's comments about people being "astounded" by the good news in the Budget, Kenny said there would be some "good news".
    He went on to emphasise that small businesses would need to be supported.
  • 15:38
    Inevitably asked about Joan Burton and her approach to the Budget - amid reports of continuing tensions with other Ministers - he praised the change that had taken place in social welfare set-up, especially with activation measures.
  • 15:40
    Ceist i nGaeilge: Easaontas idir é féin agus Joan Burton.
    "Tá deacrachtaí agus diíospóireachtaí ag chuile Aire," a dúirt sé.
    He was referring to all Ministers having difficulties and debates.
  • 15:41
    Ceist eile i nGaeilge, about the corporation tax.
    Repeated the mantra that 12.5 per cent corporation tax would remain.
    Stumbled a little with dó dhéag ponc a cúig in Irish.

  • 15:46
    On the Dept of Health and its continuing difficulties in reaching an estimate.
    "Clearly the health budget no more than any budget is up for final discussion [at tomorrow's Cabinet meeting]. Health is obviously a major department with a budget of over €13billion and there are demand-led pressures there.
    "We will decide on the detail of what we have to do with health tomorrow. It's clearly a case of great progress having been made. The vast majority of the Government departments will sign off tomorrow."
  • 15:50
    Another question from The Irish Times about tomorrows meeting being a difficult one:
    Kenny: "You have to set ceilings for each department and they have been set and the Minister for Public Expenditure has been meeting with each individual ministers.
    "We discussed this in brief yesterday (at a one and a half hour Cabinet meeting). So I think the meeting will obviously allow people bore in on the individual details of their departments and see what we have to sign off on.
    "I have to say that this is not an easy situation but we will try to be as fair and equitable as possible. We do not want to lose any of the momentum that has been gained by our people,that's very important.
    "We will achieve our targets, we will beat our targets, we will have our primary surplus next year and that starts the process of reducing our national debt but also the signs of confidence I see in so many places around the country and we want to continue that momentum.
  • 16:01
    Here's an updated piece on today's going's on at the Fine Gael national conference
  • 16:08
    First real reference to the Seanad. Senator Paul Coghlan praises Maurice Cummins, leader of the Seanad, for the dignified way that he led Fine GAel senators (many of whom were No voters) during the referendum campaign. This has come during the debate on political reform which in many ways has been the most interesting. Less scripted propaganda and a lot of interaction with ordinary members of the floor. For the first time, this conference does not have a stage-managed feel.
  • 16:10
  • 16:11
  • 16:13
  • 16:46
    We have a bit of a break in proceedings now following a panel discussion on the Gathering.

    We're going to sign off until about 7.30pm when we will be back with the Taoiseach's keynote address to his party.
  • 16:50
  • 16:51
  • 16:52
  • 16:52
  • 16:58
  • 18:26
  • 20:04
    And we're back for the closing stages of this year's Fine Gael national conference. Steven Carroll here (again) to guide you through the Taoiseach's address to his party.
  • 20:05
    A number of party members have spoken to the growing crowd ahead of the Taoiseach's address and delegates are now being treated to a video montage of all the things that went wrong prior to the 2011 general election
  • 20:06
    We have Bertie Ahern at the Mahon Tribunal, Brian Cowen denying the State needed a bailout and then the Green Party pulling out of Government
  • 20:07
    "They haven't gone away," says Jerry Buttimer as the video ends. "A leopard never changes it's spots. If in doubt, keep it out."
  • 20:07
    Parliamentary Party chairman Charlie Flanagan TD is now basking in the achievements of the Fine Gael-Labour Government since it came to power.
  • 20:09
    Jobs were going, trust and confidence were eroded and morale was at rock bottom. But Europe now knows Ireland has a stable government
  • 20:11
    Flanagan says borrowing costs are a good barometer of international confidence and that 15 per cent under Fianna Fail in 2010 had become 3.5 per cent under this government in 2013. "Michael Noonan take a bow," he says
  • 20:11
    Mr Flanagan said there was a new troika in town - Sinn Fein, Fianna Fail and the Reform Alliance
  • 20:12
    He said voters should beware of Sinn Fein unless they wanted a high tax and North Korean style of government
  • 20:13
    Charlie Flanagan rouses up the troops with a speech that sledges the Reform Alliance and what he claims to be the baleful influence of a 'false prophet', Michael McDowell.
    Charlie Flanagan rouses up the troops with a speech that sledges the Reform Alliance and what he claims to be the baleful influence of a "false prophet", Michael McDowell.
  • 20:14
    Standing ovation for Michael McDowell.
  • 20:14
    Flanagan says Fianna Fail are a populist and cynical. The Reform Alliance, a group who were kicked out of Fine Gael for voting against the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill, are wandering the streets of Ranelagh, Rathmines and Rathgar to the tune of "Svengali Michael McDowell"
  • 20:14
    Here's Michael Noonan now...
  • 20:15
    He's talking about money....
  • 20:15
    The Government is easing back a little on austerity in this year's budget, he says
  • 20:17
    Europe should look at the American banking model, Mr Noonan says, after an analogy about his son who lives in California buying a car in Chicago, which is apparently the same distance from A to B as Limerick is to Moscow
  • 20:17
    If banks go broke in future they have to bailed out using the assets of the bank, Noonan says
  • 20:18
    Here's James Reilly now.
  • 20:19
    He spoke to Young Fine Gael today about his own battle against the bulge, apparently
  • 20:20
    Noonan: primary aim is to exit the bailout and restore independence. It reflects the dominant theme of the weekend.
  • 20:21
    Hilarious verbal slip by James Reilly. Boasting about achievements during Ireland's six month pregnancy, er, presidency.
  • 20:22
    Reilly says the last government was too busy rubbing shoulders with builders and developers to take care of the health service
  • 20:22
    Fianna Fáil main target of attack. James Reilly now dissing Micheál Martin for being behind 117 reports but no action.
  • 20:23
    He said Micheal Martin created the HSE, sat between Cowen and Ahern and now wants everyone to forget. He said whether its the health service or the economy "Fianna Fail destroys, Fine Gael rebuilds"
  • 20:24
    Jerry Buttimer says the Taoiseach is a good man and will never be before a tribunal
  • 20:25
    Here's a video montage of Enda Kenny with an endorsement from Barack Obama
  • 20:26
    There's Hilary Clinton saying he made tough decision to shore up the Irish economy for the long term.
  • 20:26
    There's the Taoiseach apologising to the Magdalene Women
  • 20:27
    The commencement address at Boston College is next
  • 20:29
    Helen McEntee, party's newest TD, is to introduce party leader.
  • 20:30
    Helen McEntee, the party's newest TD, is introducing Mr Kenny who she said is "most certainly leading us in the right direction"
  • 20:31
  • 20:32
    Helen McEntee introduces Enda Kenny who receives standing ovation.
  • 20:32
    The Taoiseach's coming to speak now to a bit of Snow Patrol
  • 20:43
    "For our country it’s been a backbreaking time, but it had to be," Mr Kenny says.

    "Because it was clear that only radical action could save us from total ruin. Only radical change could rescue us from the political and economic crisis that brought the Troika to our door."
  • 20:43
    "Yes, we still have a long way to go. But because of what you did at your end of the bargain, finally, there are better days ahead."
  • 20:44
    "I want to say that I know how tough this has been on you, on your families, on your businesses. But you now know your sacrifices are showing results. Because since coming to office, we have exceeded all our budgetary targets as we move towards manageable and normal budgeting by 2015."
  • 20:44
    Another big ovation, this time when Kenny praises Michael Noonan's success at the deal on the promissory note.
  • 20:45
    "The promissory note is gone. Anglo/IBRC is gone. The result is that Ireland's borrowing requirements will be 20 billion euro less over the next ten years."
  • 20:45
    There is a protest outside and you can hear the shouts of 'shame, shame, shame' every time there is a lull or pause in the speech.
  • 20:47
    Sound of pro-life protestors (one with megaphone) outside the South Court Hotel can be faintly heard as Mr Kenny speaks here
  • 20:47
  • 20:48
    First mention of the Seanad of the weekend from Mr Kenny. "In putting the issue of the future of the Seanad to the people, we honoured a clear promise to do so.
    The outcome is clear and we will now continue reforming the political system and ensuring that the Seanad is as effective as possible."
  • 20:48
  • 20:48
    "I intend to discuss this with other leaders in the coming weeks and, as a small first step, I have asked that legislation be prepared to give effect to the 1979 decision of the Irish people to extend the Seanad electorate to all graduates."
  • 20:50
    Kenny now on to abortion. "I believe we achieved a delicate balance that protected the life of the mother and her baby. I believe we have done the right thing for all the women of Ireland."
  • 20:50
  • 20:50
    "The Protection of Life in Pregnancy Bill bringing clarity to the professionals and comfort to expectant mothers. Previous governments steered well clear. But as Taoiseach, I was convinced of the need to provide that clarity."
  • 20:51
    Kenny says two words sum up tragedy of Celtic Tiger years - Priory Hall
  • 20:51
  • 20:51
    "I admire the dignity and integrity of these families. So I’m pleased to say that the government has given the Priory Hall families another chance at a better life."
  • 20:52
    Here's the bit about the budget: "Yes, I know it’s been tough. And on Tuesday the budget will be tough. But it has two key objectives, both of them in your interest.
    To reach our agreed targets so we can exit the bail-out and to allow us to invest as much as we can in creating jobs"

  • 20:52
  • 20:52
    "The decisions we have taken, many of them tough – government and people working in partnership – mean that this goal is now within our grasp. Tonight I can confirm that Ireland is on track to exit the EU/IMF/ bail-out on December 15th."
  • 20:53
  • 20:53
    That's not the end of our financial troubles though...
  • 20:53
  • 20:53
    "The economic emergency will be over. But the exit from the bail-out is not an end in itself. In fact it’s just the beginning. The beginning of our freedom to choose the kind of Ireland we want to build."
  • 20:54
  • 20:54
    A new medium term economic strategy will be published before the end of the year to help plan for life after the troika, he says
  • 20:55
    On to reforms to come now. "We will overhaul our welfare system to make sure people have both the support and the incentive to get back to work. Above all, we will be changing the economic model from one based on speculation to one based on enterprise."
  • 20:55
    "Swapping greed, exclusion and speculation for ideas, inclusion and innovation. Because we refuse to go back to the policies that brought our country to the brink of bankruptcy."
  • 20:55
  • 20:56
    Kenny says he has have never been as confident that Ireland will beat the economic challenges that we face.

    "I have never been as proud when I see the response from people to these challenges."
  • 20:56
    "The power of community leadership, the extent of voluntary commitment, the embrace of family solidarity evident all over this country reinforces my view of the real strength of the Irish people. These are the attributes that have distinguished us as a people for generations. These are the qualities that make us stand apart."
  • 20:57
    "I want all our people, men and women, young and experienced, at home and abroad to assist in our national effort to build that new future. I know we can do this, I know we can succeed. I know we will succeed."
  • 20:57
  • 20:58
    Cabinet members come to shake hands with the Taoiseach as applause dies out
  • 20:58
    and they're off
  • 21:00
  • 21:02
    The speech was well received but that is no surprise, given that it was not exactly a hostile audience. Delivery was very slow and very deliberate, low key throughout. Key passages referred to extension of university franchise in Seanad as well as those referring to December 15th as the date Ireland will exit the bailout. For me, that has been the overriding theme of the weekend, a Budget in two days time that will set off a train of events that culminates in Ireland regaining its economic independence. From the Coalition's perspective that may be the turning point, tipping point of its term, the time and date when its electoral recovery was gauged...
  • 21:02
  • 21:03
  • 21:05
  • 21:09
  • 21:15
    A tweeted picture of Fionnan Sheahan might not be the best way to end the night, but needs must. Thanks for joining us for our coverage of the Fine Gael national conference in Limerick. We'll be back on Monday with the Daily Wire and then it'll be budget 2013 coverage on Tuesday.
  • 21:15