Minister Charlie Flanagan
Minister Charlie Flanagan launched a blistering attack on Sinn Fein and Fianna Fail at Monday night's Fine Gael selection convention in Clonaslee.
In no uncertain terms, the JusticeMinister set out his stall against any future coalition with Sinn Fein.
"We have seen what radical left wing economics has delivered for countries like Greece where Syriza, sister party of Sinn Fein, delivered little more than chaos, undoing the progress that had been made by the previous Government, and then bailing out leaving the people of Greece high and dry.
"We cannot allow Sinn Fein any possibility of doing the same in this jurisdiction," he told the large crowd at Clonaslee Community Centre.
"There has been a lot of speculation about the configuration of the next Government in terms of coalition partners. I want to make one thing crystal clear - I will not support a Fine Gael Sinn Fein Government," he stated to applause from the floor.
"I cannot support the cheque book answer as a solution to everything that forms the basis of the crazed Sinn Fein economic policies but, more importantly as Minister for Justice, I strongly reject the recent allegations by Sinn Fein of bias in the Special Criminal Court. The Judges of the Special Criminal Court have performed courageous public service in presiding over the prosecutions of some of the most dangerous criminals in the State.
"It is true that many provisional IRA and dissident by Republican terrorists have been convicted of heinous crimes by the Special Criminal Court over the years by it does not follow that the court has an anti-republican bias. The Special Criminal Court is a vital part of the State’s defence against ruthless criminals and violent terrorists. I am determined that the bullet will not prevail over the ballot box."
The Minister also turned his attention to Fianna Fail. "I mentioned the other choice which faces us at election time – as between competence and incompetence. Well, we need also to be mindful of the false promises of Fianna Fáil - because we know on very occasion that Fine Gael has stepped up to the plate as the responsible party trusted to clean up Fianna Fáil's mess, we have been defeated by parties with Pied Piper policies, willing to risk the recovery and start the boom and bust cycle again - all for narrow party political advantage.
"We cannot let that happen again."
Minister Flanagan also dealt with a raft of other issues, in his speech at the convention.
"We face many challenges like Brexit, rural crime, and tough decisions have to be made about how to deliver the kind of public services that the people of this country deserve – and which ones need to be prioritised.
We must do all of this while still maintaining a viable tax base, and trying to ease the burden on those who pay for everything.
Fine Gael has a clear philosophy – and I believe in that philosophy
-Every child deserves a childhood
-Every woman and man deserves a future
-Every older person deserves to be treated with respect and dignity.
"In recent years, we’ve had success in creating new jobs. But that’s not enough. We want better jobs, secure jobs that pay the bills, and allow people to raise a family and aspire to home ownership.
"As we have almost reached full employment in our country we need to talk about improving the quality of that employment. We need to improve the quality of employment- continue increasing the minimum wage and protect and enhance employment rights for workers.
"We need to ensure that every worker is enrolled in an occupational pension so that they will have more than the State pension when they retire.
"I’ve seen the problems that families and communities in this constituency have with rural crime. And yet, as Minister for Justice, I know what we are doing to fight that. I know that we have set up mobile, armed Garda units, who stage random checkpoints to catch burglars and other criminals. I know that we have made over 6,000 arrests over the past two years, since Operation Thor was introduced.
"I am very keen to ensure that unprecedented investment in Garda resources continue. Currently the Gardai have over €1.6 billion and I am looking forward to working with the new Garda Commissioner when he takes office in September.
"An Garda Síochana have been given over 700 new vehicles in the last two years. We are putting more resources into updating communications and technology. We reopened Templemore after Fianna Fáil closed it and we’ll be seeing over 800 new Gardaí graduating each year. By 2020 we will have a Garda service of over 15,000– with 4,000 civilians and 2,000 Garda Reserve to help them. This too, is a fight that we will win!
"One of the biggest challenges facing this country is Brexit. I know from my time in the Department of Foreign Affairs, that you can’t sit on the fence and criticise. You have to get out there and develop relationships in Europe, and in the UK, with the real decision makers. That’s what we have done.
"And that’s why Simon Coveney and myself were representing Ireland at an Inter-Governmental meeting in London last week and this work will continue throughout the summer.
"But my other work is as your representative. For me it is a great privilege to serve the people of Laois/Offaly. That, Chair, is the reason why I am honoured to put my name forward to once again represent this great constituency.
"I know I have been your TD for quite a few years, and yes, we have heard from previous speakers about the need for new thinking and fresh ideas. But I believe the new ideas and fresh thinking which are tempered with experience, and context, and a real understanding of how to get things done are the ones which actually deliver … and the people who really deliver are very often those with the years of experience only a long period of public service can bring you.
"Many of us remember I’m sure that the great Irish American democratic speaker Tipp O’Neill entitled his book, All Politics is Local - and that’s no less true here this evening as I seek your votes to be a Fine Gael candidate for Laois/Offaly in the next election.
"I want to continue the work of investment in the midlands from the Cabinet Table be it in Jobs, Tourism, Education, Agriculture and Health. And as far as Health is concerned let me assure you of my priority interest in fighting for services at Portlaoise Hospital."