Varadkar tells Fine Gael conference: Everyone should have a home

The Taoiseach spoke about housing, jobs and Brexit

Varadkar tells Fine Gael conference: Everyone should have a home

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar speaking at the official opening of the Fine Gael National Conference in the Slieve Russell Hotel in Co Cavan | Image: Eamonn Farrell/RollingNews.ie

The Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has delivered his first speech as leader of Fine Gael at the party's national conference.

Speaking in at the Slieve Russell Hotel in Co Cavan, Mr Varadkar outlined challenges facing the country in the future, and proposals to fix issues today.

On the issue of housing, Mr Varadkar said: "Not so long ago some people claimed that our country would never get back on its feet; that we would never get people working again. Well, they were wrong, completely wrong.

"Thanks to the hard work and sacrifices of the Irish people - and the right policy decisions we made and you supported - we achieved what seemed impossible at the time.

"So when the same critics and cynics now claim that the housing crisis can't and won't be solved, I don't believe them.

"Yes, there are major challenges with housing and homelessness, and no, they won't be solved overnight.

But we have a plan, the plan is working, and we won't stop until we succeed.

"Because we believe that everyone should have a home. And we believe that every working person should be able to aspire to own their own one."

"An equal chance to be the best"

The issue of a prosperous chilhood was a common theme in his speech.

He told delegates: "I want to ensure that everybody in this country has an equal chance to be the best person they can be.

"That every child can grow-up to be the best adult they can be.

"I want our growing prosperity to be shared in all parts of the country. And I want there to be second chances for everyone who needs one. "

"The tech capital of Europe"

Speaking about investment and jobs, the Taoiseach said: "For Ireland to succeed, we need to plan long-term.

"We must imagine what an Ireland in 2040 should look like - home to eight million people, north and south.

"Our new National Development Plan will set-out how we will invest €100bn over the next 10 years and prepare us for the future.

"That plan will build an Ireland that is future-proofed: balanced regional development, climate action, quality of life, continued capacity to grow, making Dublin the tech capital of Europe.

"In planning for the future, we must prepare for major changes that are coming.

"Robotics, artificial intelligence, driverless vehicles, renewable energy and smart grids will change our world in the next 20 years in the way the internet and mobile phones did in the last.

"Ireland should be an early adopter of these new technologies."

"A different road to the United Kingdom"

The issue of Brexit was also on the agenda, with Mr Varadkar telling his party: "We meet tonight less than four miles from the border.

"And it brings home to us the need to ensure that the free movement of people, goods and services on this island is protected.

"A shared space is not a lost space. So on this island, let's build bridges, not borders.

"There can and there will not be be a return to a border on this island.

"In my conversations with European presidents and prime ministers I have received considerable support for the challenges we face.

"And tonight, I want to reassure all border communities that we are listening to you, we hear your concerns, and we promise you that we will safeguard your rights, and all that we have achieved.

"I know this won’t be easy, and that all these matters are not entirely under our control.

"But remember this: four times in our history we decided as a country to take a different road to the United Kingdom.

"We did it in 1921, when we became independent and we were the first country to leave the empire.

"We did it in 1948, when we became a Republic. We did it again in 1979 when we broke the link with sterling and floated our own currency.

"And then we did it again in 2001 when we joined the Euro without Britain.

"While there were challenges, on every occasion we overcame them and emerged stronger and more prosperous as a result, and we approach the challenge of Brexit with the same spirit.

"There may be tough calls and hard decisions ahead. But one thing is certain: Ireland will always remain at the heart of the common European home we helped to build."