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Action Programme for the Millennium - July 2000



Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats have now completed the first three years of our mandate in government. It is appropriate to take stock of what we have achieved as well as to assess the challenges facing us in the period to come.

In 1997 we received a mandate for fundamental change and reform.We promised to cut taxes, to cut crime, to provide jobs and to bring lasting peace to Northern Ireland.

The Action Programme for the Millennium set out 258 specific commitments covering every area of life. We were determined that in government we would grow the economy, create jobs and implement a social vision that would improve the quality of life in every community in the country. In the light of our rapidly changing circumstances the parties in government reviewed their Programme for Government last November and added significant new challenges to the existing programme. We now look to the next two years to completing our programme. A five year Programme for Government is necessarily an ordered series of priorities. We are conscious that there are important issues remaining as well as new issues that have arisen.

Building peace in Northern Ireland, based on a just settlement provided by the Good Friday Agreement, is painstaking but rewarding work. The second IRA cease fire is now in place for three years.The Power-Sharing Executive, the North-South Ministerial Council and its associated implementation bodies and the British - Irish Council and Intergovernmental Conference have all been established. The process for decommissioning is begun. Slowly the mutual confidence of both communities is being built up and the foundations are being laid for a lasting peace. Many serious challenges remain but we believe that the momentum gathered will allow us to meet them successfully.

The National Development Plan, The Programme for Prosperity and Fairness and Agenda 2000 are all significant milestones of which the Government is justly proud. These are firm foundations for our economic and social progress in the years ahead. They have been achieved in collaboration with our social partners at home and our political partners in the European Union. These major policy achievements are the blueprint of our vision for the future. Their implementation is a major challenge for every sector in our society.

Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats see the achievement of these milestones as an unprecedented opportunity to improve the quality of life of every community in the country. Economic growth is not an end in itself. Rather it is the beginning of an historic opportunity in Ireland to reach out to people and places who previously had known little more than unemployment, emigration and social exclusion. The historic challenges of unemployment and emigration took over a decade of economic growth to overcome. But they have now been overcome. It would be naive to expect that the social marginalisation of communities and regions can be ended completely overnight or even in the next two years. We are determined, however, by the completion of our mandate in 2002, that an historic and irreversible social change will have commenced.

We aim to bring employment and a decent quality of life within the reach of every citizen. That means more than creating jobs. We are already doing that in an unprecedented way. Now we must concentrate on providing training that is accessible, child care that is affordable and public transport that is available. We must especially concentrate our efforts on those who are most marginalised and feel least empowered by our booming economy. Our policies are designed to do just that.

Our rapid economic growth means that we have outgrown our physical and social infrastructure. The National Development Plan will improve our quality of life. It will provide for the physical infrastructure that will allow us go about our business more efficiently and with less hassle. Just as importantly, the NDP provides for unprecedented investment in our social infrastructure. Health, Education, Housing and Child Care are all targeted for investment and improvement. Now that at last, as a country, we have the resources, this Government is putting in place the strategy that will deliver lasting results.

Between 1987 and 2000 Ireland was transformed economically and politically. We were perceived as an economic loser characterised by massive emigration. We also had what was believed to be an insoluble civil and political conflict in Northern Ireland. Ireland has been transformed by political leadership and social partnership. Political leadership and social partnership can continue to transform our country for the better.

The Action Programme for the Millennium provides the policy framework for a society in which all can participate.

We are aware that it is no longer enough to do more. We must also do things differently. Public confidence in the conduct of politics is severely shaken by the revelations coming out of the tribunals. Government at every level must be and must be seen to be about public service first and last.

The Government has initiated the most thorough and the most far reaching inquiries into public affairs and institutions not only in the history of this State but in the recent history of most democratic countries. We are determined to find the truth what ever it is. We are determined to deal with all the issues that arise from all the inquiries however many and complex they are.

In Government, we have ensured that the legal framework for the conduct of Irish politics has been changed radically. At every level of Government, both national and local, we have brought forward exacting and legally binding standards for both politicians and officials. The breach of these standards will result in severe penalties. Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats, in government, are determined to uphold the highest standards in public life and to build a record that is both radical and honorable.

When our term is complete in 2002, we believe that there will be three milestones of our term in office.

  • We laid the foundations of a lasting peace in Northern Ireland,
  • We laid the foundations for lasting economic success,
  • We laid the foundations for the honest and open conduct of politics in the twenty first century.

The next two years will be challenging. Hitherto intractable problems remain while new concerns emerge. We are confident, however, that we have created the policy framework of economic growth and social partnership that will enable us to achieve our goals, the most important of which is to fight social exclusion and marginalisation. We want to create a society where there is room for everybody and where everyone has access to the support they need to participate fully.

Bertie Ahern, TD.
Leader of Fianna Fáil  

Mary Harney, TD
Leader of the Progressive Democrats

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