This week marked the fourth anniversary of the 2011 General Election and Enda Kenny’s rise to the Taoiseach’s office. Last weekend Mr Kenny brought it all back home with the Fine Gael National Convention taking place in the Royal Theatre, Castlebar. The convention brought in the region of 2,000 Fine Gael delegates to the town for the weekend and gave a nice economic boost to the town.
The Taoiseach used his keynote speech to outline his party’s plan for the coming year and put the party on an election footing. He also used it to call on the people of Ireland to vote Yes in the upcoming same sex marriage referendum. He said: “A Yes vote would send out a powerful signal internationally that Ireland has evolved into a fair, compassionate, and tolerant nation.”
The Taoiseach also used his speech to give a commitment that, under his watch, the era of new taxes and charges is over. Praising the efforts of the people of Ireland over the last few years, he said: “It’s because of your sacrifices, that we can now say that Ireland and our economy is recovering. The bailout is over. The Troika are gone home. Yes, we still have too many people out of work, but jobs are being created. It’s not enough, but it’s a start.”
While the Taoiseach’s speech was the main set piece of the weekend’s convention, his colleague Minister of State Michael Ring got the crowd whipped up before the headline act, by telling them: “Take Fianna Fáil. They have no plans or solutions and nobody will forget what they did to this country. Then you have Sinn Féin saying only millionaires will be taxed if they get into government, but they can’t tell us where they are going to make up the shortfall. That should not surprise us.” He went on to have a dig at the independents, saying: “Imagine Mick Wallace, Shane Ross, and Mattie McGrath on the same team. They would all want to be captain and wouldn’t come off when a sub was being made.”
Even the anticipated protest organised by anti-water tax groups failed to put a dampener on the Fine Gael weekend, with only between 150 to 200 protesters showing up to march around Castlebar on Saturday and make their feelings known outside the convention centre.