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Love and protect Ireland, urges departing Taoiseach
Departing Taoiseach Leo Varadkar

09 Apr 2024 / ireland Print

Love and protect Ireland, urges departing Taoiseach

Irish people must learn to ‘disagree better’ retiring Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said in his resignation speech to the Dáil this morning (9 April).

Serving for 20 years as TD, minister, Tánaiste and Taoiseach was the most fulfilling and rewarding time of his life, he said.

Varadkar added that Ireland is a great country.

Stable democracy

“We have been a stable and continuous democracy for over a hundred years, one of only a handful in the world.  We have our problems for sure but we are free, prosperous and safe with huge opportunities for our citizens that would have been unimaginable in the past,” he said.

“We are not a failed state, we are a great state,” he said.

“We should love it, protect it and build on all that has been achieved since independence to make it better.”

He added that many of domestic problems have had their origins abroad, such as the banking and financial crash, Brexit, the pandemic, inflation, the energy crisis, climate change and migration. 

Challenges such as health and housing have strong international dimensions too, he said.

“We are a small ship on a big and restless ocean and we need that ship to be crewed by good people. 

"The only workable solutions involve multilateralism tackling these challenges with other countries through international bodies such as the EU, the UN system and OECD and international agreements. We must not lose sight of this,” he said.

'Excessive caution'

He said it’s important to guard against the risk of excessive caution, which is not always the best path.

“Certainly, had we known the economy would recover so quickly after the crash, that it would not stagnate due to Brexit and that it would bounce back so strongly after COVID, many of the investment decisions we made would have been made a year or two or three sooner.

“Policies that are now starting to show results, would have done so much earlier has we been a little more confident,” he said.

“Health is not a black hole. Health can be fixed. It’s just expensive, takes time and is never easy due to resistance to reform. Just don’t give up. 

"As the international medical journal, The Lancet acknowledged a few weeks ago, Ireland in the past seven years has become ‘a more equitable place, not least in terms of health’,” he added.

Heart attack survival rates

Stroke and heart attack survival rates and cancer outcomes have dramatically improved and private practice is being phased out of public hospitals, he said.

“My point is that universal healthcare is achievable. It will need ongoing leadership, political prioritisation and investment,” he said.

The change in tone in political debate, with more anger, coarseness, and toxicity is amplified by algorithms and social media, Leo Varadkar said.

“But it’s also something that we are, at least in part, responsible for ourselves,” he said.

“We should not twist each other’s words, misquote each other, misrepresent each other, demonise each other. 

“We should be much slower to question each other’s motives. We need to learn to disagree better,” he said.

Varadkar said he has found other politicians, with opposing views, to be equally motivated by a desire to improve their country and communities.

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