“You are a candidate in the next election for the presidency of Ireland. Write a speech to be
delivered during the election campaign, in which you outline the social and cultural values you
would promote if elected and explain the perception of Ireland you would cultivate abroad,
given the opportunity to do so.”
Ladies and gentlemen, my name is Joe Bloggs and I would like to welcome all of you here tonight to this, my final speech in this presidential election. It has been a long and arduous campaign and I know that the journey has only just begun as the real hard work will start when I walk through the hallowed doors of Aras an Uachtaran.
For those in front of me here tonight and those listening at home, I want to outline to you what my vision for Ireland is. Tonight I will address the social and cultural issues that I want to tackle, if elected as your president. I will also share with you my plan to change the perception of Ireland abroad for the better.
As I’m sure you are all aware, homelessness is an issue that is crippling our nation. Recent statistics show that over ten thousand people in Ireland are currently homeless. Families are struggling to survive as they roam the streets desperately looking for the security and safety of a home. Moving from hotel to hotel or hostel to hostel is no way for any family to live and it breaks my heart to think of the young children, who have nowhere to call home. Can you imagine trying to do your homework in a crowded room? Can you imagine trying to feed your family with no cooking facilities? Can you imagine not knowing where you are going to sleep tonight? Thousands do not have to imagine this scenario, for them this is reality.
As president, I want to work with our current government to tackle this problem once and for all. For a nation like Ireland to be dealing with such huge numbers of homeless people is embarrassing and I will do my very best to give these people stability, security and peace of mind. I do not want another Christmas to pass where children are worried about Santa not knowing where they live. If you share the same aspirations, it is important that you choose me to lead this country into the future. The elimination of American vulture funds is the first step in ensuring that we can eradicate homelessness in this country. Wealthy businesses should not be profiting from the basic rights of our people.
In 1840, over four million people spoke Irish on this island. In our most recent census, only 39% of people claim to be able to speak some Irish. The percentage of fluent speakers is much lower. We have tried in vain for decades to revive the language but ladies and gentlemen, there are times when we must admit defeat and change our tactics.
The current system of teaching Irish to the next generation is simply not working. It has been clearly established that rote learning and memorisation is a thing of the past, yet we persist in forcing students to learn off notes about poems and novels, which puts students off the language. Would it not be better if we taught the next generation to speak the language rather than force them to memorise notes? Irish literature should be offered as a subject for those who wish to study it but I want to implement a programme where students learn to speak Irish in a fun and interactive way, which would increase the number of fluent speakers on this island. I’m sure everyone in the room would love to speak Irish but are haunted by the stress of memorising phrases for the Leaving Cert. It’s time to change how we approach our national language, before it is consigned to the dustbin.
I would like to make equality a cornerstone of my term as president. Ireland led the way as the first country to legalise same sex marriage by popular vote, but there are so many issues, which still need to be addressed if we are to be a truly inclusive country.
The way in which members of the travelling community are treated in this country is reminiscent of the Ireland where we imprisoned unmarried mothers and criminalised members of the gay community.
Travellers face discrimination every day on this island. Their life expectancy is fifteen years less than the general population, their access to education is limited and they face significant difficulties in gaining employment. Travellers face difficulties in booking venues for weddings and funerals due to the way in which they are stereotyped in Ireland. Is it fair that all travellers are blamed for the actions of a few?
Senator Eileen Flynn is a great ambassador for travellers across the island. She gained entry to Trinity College through an Access Programme and this gave her the platform and qualifications to get involved in social work. The fact that she is now representing the people of Ireland in Seanad Eireann is testament to the power of education and highlights the importance of erasing stereotypes in our society. In our last presidential election, one candidate tried to get elected by demonising and stigmatising the traveller community. Thankfully, the good people of this country gave him a defiant message that we do not tolerate the discrimination and bigotry that he tried to amplify. We don’t need pound-shop Donald Trumps, we need someone who can bring people together, not drive them apart. Ladies and gentlemen, I am that man.
Racism and discrimination are still prevelant in today’s Ireland. We live in a diverse and multicultural Ireland but unfortunately some people are stuck in the past. As a season ticket holder at Landsdowne Road for many years, I watched in awe at the sheer brilliance of Paul McGrath, one of the first black players to play for Ireland. The colour of his skin was as irrelevant then as it is today. Now, when I go watch the boys in green, it provides a microcosm of a changing Ireland. Watching the likes of Gavin Bazunu and Michael Obafemi wear the green jersey with pride shows how sport can help us break barriers and bring equality to our society. As Toni, Morrison once said, “There is no such thing as race. None. There is just a human race.”
As President, I want to promote equality and multiculturalism through sport. Who can forget moments like Paris in 2016 or when Katie won gold in London? Sport brings out the best in all of us and moments like these bring us together as a country.
Now, I would like to talk to you about the perception of Ireland abroad. When people across the globe think of Ireland, it pains me when the drunk leprechaun stereotype is wheeled out again and again. This stereotype is a vestige of the past, one which has been used to denigrate our people for generations.
As president, I want to cultivate the perception of the real Ireland that we in this room all know. That is an Ireland of progression, an Ireland of education, an Ireland of beauty and nature, an Ireland of openness and transparency.
It is no coincidence that the top technological companies in the world are based in our nation’s capital. Yes, we have a lower corporation tax, but this is not the only reason that Google, Twitter, Facebook and Apple have setup their bases in Dublin. We have one of the best educated workforces in Europe and are known around the world for our ability to provide hard-working and competent employees for the world’s best known organisations.
I would also like to ensure that we are seen as the empathetic and generous country that we are. Our reaction to the Ukraine invasion has been nothing short of phenomenal. We have opened our homes and our towns and cities to the people of Ukraine, in the same way other countries offered us help in our time of need. We have always been known for our Cead Mile Failte and as president, I want to ensure everyone who comes to our shores are given the welcome they deserve.
As president, I will also aim to increase our contributions to those living in abject poverty in places like sub-saharan Africa and central America. As a first world nation, it is our duty to help those less fortunate. Yes, there are problems in our country, but that does not mean we cannot help those who are dying from starvation and disease. I want Ireland to be known for our generosity and our willingness to help those most in need.
The time for words has ended, now is the time for action. I want to lead this country, but I can only do that if you give me your number one vote. I want to thank you all for listening and I hope that I am given the opportunity to implement the changes I have outlined tonight.
Go raibh mile maith agat.