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Implementation of An Agreed Programme for Government between Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats - Progress Report, June 2002 to June 2003



One year ago the Irish people gave Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats a renewed and an enhanced mandate for Government. We stood for election on a proud record. But our case to the people was based not on past achievements. It was based upon future plans. The mandate that the people gave is not for what we have done. It is for what we had yet to do.

Ireland is a country with vast potential, a potential we have only begun to realise. This Government has the political imagination to see what can be achieved. It has the courage to lead. It has the capacity to deliver. In our Programme for Government, we have set out in practical steps how we plan to realise our vision. This is our pact with the people.

At the end of our first year in office, we offer this account of our progress. We set out in detail what we said we would do. We account in detail for what we have done so far.

Our immediate priority on re-election was to put the Treaty of Nice to the people. We listened to public concerns about our engagement in Europe and we acted upon them. Ireland's involvement in the European Union is now more transparent and more accountable.It is also now strongly reaffirmed. The Government is energetically engaged with the Convention on the Future of Europe. This great debate across the continent is an opportunity not a threat and it is an opportunity that Ireland is engaging with.

At home our priority was to renew social partnership and to negotiate a successor to the Programme for Prosperity and Fairness. Sustaining Progress is now agreed and provides a basis for economic stability and social progress over the coming period.

So in a short time difficult steps have been taken and major milestones have been achieved.

In Northern Ireland, the Government has worked tirelessly to achieve the full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement. Although progress has been made and full agreement came tantalisingly close, final agreement remains to be achieved. But the Governments resolve is undiminished and our optimism is unabated. We have come too far to turn back. And so with renewed determination we shall again engage with the historic challenge of this generation which is to achieve a lasting, a just and a peaceful settlement.

Government is not just about delivering upon promised plans, although that is very important. The ultimate test of Government is in dealing with unexpected crisis. War in Iraq was such a crisis.While we remained on the UN Security Council, through our first six months in Government, we worked tirelessly to achieve unity in fact as well as in name at the UN. Faced with the reality of war and disunity in the Security Council, the Government steered Ireland on a course that was both sensible and principled.

At home, the attention of the Government is focused on our economy and on our public services. In a difficult year, Ireland,one of the most globalised economies in the world, is continuing to grow at over three times the euro area average.

Our resilience at home, in the face of adversity abroad is founded on the fundamental reforms we have completed in our economy. By having fairer taxes on workers and more competitive taxes on companies, we are holding onto jobs that others are losing. Today, Irish workers enjoy the third lowest tax burden among rich countries. The significance of this is for the future and for our capacity to take advantage of an international upturn when it comes.

A priority of this Programme for Government is the quality of life of our people as well as on the competitiveness of our economy. On top of the massive increases of recent years in all areas of public investment, we have invested an additional 7% in public spending in 2003. This increase is a prudent response to our own economic circumstances as well as being generous by the standards of our competitors. We are managing our economy prudently because it is in the national interest to do so. The security of the jobs we have, the prospects of the jobs we hope to have, as well as the continued sustainable investment in our public services, depend upon the careful management of our affairs.

In Government, we are taking the path that we promised the people we would if elected. This Government is leading as it promised, not misleading as it is alleged.

Our public finances are sound. Our economic prospects remain better than many of our neighbours. While we must be careful, we can also be confident.

What we have set out to fulfil is the destiny of the Irish people, living in prosperity on an island at peace with itself.

This is our vision for our country. Step by step, promise by promise, year by year this Government is delivering on its promises and is keeping faith with the people. This is the report of our progress at the end of the first of the five years of our mandate.

Bertie Ahern, T.D.

Mary Harney, T.D.