Time for recovery and renewal

A New Year's message from Senator Robbie Gallagher, Fianna Fáil...

2020 has been a very challenging year with the COVID-19 pandemic affecting everyone of us. The issues that consumed us all less than a year ago have been forced into second place on the airwaves and in the media as the government and the nation fights the deadly foe that is the virus.

However 2020 has also shown us that, as a people, we are strong, resilient and resourceful. Many businesses have pivoted and diversified to survive and even thrive. Our school communities have worked together to keep our schools open and our children safe. Our health workers became heroes during the first wave. In the second, they kept the hospitals and the health service open as well.

Many workers such as those on essential retail and supply have worked all through this pandemic. Recent months have demonstrated our creativity as a people with Ireland doing the best among EU members in dealing with the second wave.

We step into 2021 in the throes of the third and hopefully final wave of this disease but, due to our individual and collective efforts, we face 2021 with renewed determination and hope. The arrival of vaccines offer a gradual return to some form of normality, a light at the end of the tunnel.

The government, which Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Green Party agreed to form back in the summer, has at its core a shared understanding that we must work together both to help our country through this pandemic and to deliver sustained progress across our full term. The agreed programme for recovery and renewal is the most comprehensive and ambitious ever agreed between Irish political parties.

We have had good news in the last week with Ireland ranked second in the world for quality of life. Only Norway ranked higher on a United Nations annual ranking of 189 countries measured according to average longevity, education and income.

An OECD report also published earlier this year found that while inequality had increased from one generation to the next in most countries, in Ireland it was actually the opposite.

Budget 21 marks a major statement of intent by this new government. Already there has been key investments in areas such as education, health and housing.

For our border counties, 2021 will bring challenges in dealing with the Brexit outcome. Our agri-businesses in particular will need support. Improving our roads and infrastructure will support our local entrepreneurs and businesses.

Further investment in health and education is needed to ensure that our children get the opportunities they deserve and that services for those who need them are up to scratch and planning ahead to develop our tourism product will ensure we are ready to benefit from the untapped potential it holds.