Speech by the Tánaiste at the National Q Mark Awards 2015

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It’s a great pleasure to be here this evening and I’d like to thank Excellence Quality Ireland Association for the invitation.

More than 150 organisations are gathered here tonight – public institutions and private sector companies, commercial bodies and not-for-profits.

You make up a very diverse grouping, but you’ve got one thing in common: excellence.

And tonight is about honouring that excellence.

About honouring the commitment to best practice and highest standards that each and every one of you displays on a daily basis.

Since coming to office, this Government’s key priority has been driving recovery and helping people back to work.

Central to that is supporting Irish businesses providing products and services to the highest international standards and creating good, sustainable employment.

It’s impressive to see so many businesses from all sectors and counties embedding quality standards as a key part of your offering to customers.

So I’d like to start by thanking you.

Not just because of the excellence you achieve.

But because your work has played a major role in Ireland’s recovery.

And it can be an inspiration to others as we build for future growth.

In Government, we have a responsibility to help the array of organisations in this room improve your services, expand, and realise your full potential.

I want to mention three ways in which we’ll be doing that in the coming weeks.

Firstly, there is next month’s Budget, which, by raising incomes and living standards, will serve as a valuable stimulus for domestic business.

As with last year, we’ll ensure more take-home pay for low and middle-income workers and help pensioners and vulnerable groups by increasing the Christmas bonus.

Money targeted towards those on low and middle incomes, towards retired people and vulnerable groups, will, in turn, be spent in local shops and on local services.

That will boost domestic business as the recovery continues to strengthen.

We’ll look particularly at USC, and continue to reform and reduce it, with a goal to phasing out this particular charge within the lifetime of the next government.

But better services are just as important to people and communities, and that is why, as Labour Party leader, I’ve ensured that the Budget package will be a 50:50 split between tax reductions and spending increases.

This will give us the room to announce increased investment in our health, education and childcare systems - because continuously improved public services are essential to a better Ireland.

The budget process effectively begins next Tuesday, when my colleague Brendan Howlin launches the multi-billion euro capital plan.

This plan will impact on every city and county nationwide, and therefore be vital for businesses and organisations.

It will improve crucial infrastructure like roads, railways and broadband over the next six to seven years.

It will create more jobs, and underpin our future economic growth – and we all stand to benefit from that.

Finally, next week is Jobs Week – when every year, my Department hosts a nationwide schedule of events for employers and jobseekers.

We’ll publicise thousands of positions for jobseekers, and our Intreo staff will work to meet employers’ needs by finding suitable candidates for those positions.

We’ll also publicise the array of State supports available to employers, some of which may surprise you.

These include the wage subsidy scheme JobsPlus.

For those of you not familiar with the scheme, JobsPlus incentivises businesses to hire jobseekers from the Live Register by providing monthly cash payments to offset wage costs.

JobsPlus provides two levels of payment:

  • A payment of €7,500 over two years to the employer for each person recruited who has been unemployed for between 12 and 24 months. This equates to approximately €312 a month.
  • €10,000 over two years to the employer for each person recruited who has been unemployed for more than 24 months. This equates to approximately €416 a month.

I think you can see from those figures how JobsPlus could potentially be so beneficial to your bottom line.

Which in turn is hugely helpful to my bottom line – helping people back to work, broadening the recovery, and raising living standards.

It’s a vastly different picture to 2011, when the Government came to power, and the country couldn’t pay its way – or borrow to pay its way.

We now have the potential to build a better Ireland – but potential has to be realised.

And this is where I’ll become political for a moment with your permission.

The recovery is well under way and is being felt by more and more people.

But it cannot be taken for granted.

The Eurozone crisis is still far from settled.

And we saw very recently just how volatile the stock markets can be.

But it’s not just international factors that could put our recovery at risk.

The Irish people will have choices to make in a few months’ time.

The essential choice is simple: we can choose the policies which have brought the country back from the brink or we can put everything we have achieved together at risk.

Our national income will shortly be back to the levels of 2007.

So, in a way, we have created a second chance for ourselves.

The chance to invest in the future.

To invest in school places and in child care.

To invest in apprenticeships, upskilling and life-long learning.

To invest in the community facilities which make our lives better.

When I look at the Opposition benches, I see people who either have run the country down or talk the country down.

These people and parties come in various shapes and guises.

But they have one thing in common.

They want to talk about the past.

They don’t want to talk about the future because they have no plans for the future.

My plan for the future is simple: it’s one of continuous improvement for this country, progressively building a better Ireland.

The same continuous improvement which everyone in this room strives for on a daily basis.

Thank you.


Last modified:25/09/2015