Taoiseach Enda Kenny has urged the people of Ireland to deliver a strong yes vote in favour of same-sex marriage in May’s referendum.
In his closing address to the Fine Gael national conference, Mr Kenny said a Yes would send out a “powerful signal” ahead of the centenary of the 1916 Easter Rising that Ireland had become a “fair, compassionate and tolerant nation”.
The Fine Gael leader said the issue to be decided at the poll was whether to allow same-sex couples the right to civil marriage.
“As we approach the centenary of the Rising, a Yes vote would, I believe, send out a powerful signal internationally that Ireland has evolved into a fair, compassionate and tolerant nation,” he said.
“I believe that this is the right thing to do.
“I, and the Fine Gael Party, strongly support a Yes vote.
“And therefore I say to all same-sex couples in our country. This is about you, it’s about your right to say two small words, made up of three simple letters – I do.
“For you, in your lives together, may they become your letters of freedom.”
Closing the conference in the heart of his own constituency in Castlebar, Co Mayo, Mr Kenny also promised a series of tax cutting budgets if Fine Gael are returned to office at next year’s election.
He insisted Ireland was on the road to recovery but conceded many people were not experiencing the benefits.
As well as tax cuts, the Taoiseach said he had set a three-year target to deliver full employment.
“That means that everyone who wants a job, can get a job,” he told delegates.
Mr Kenny added: “That goal of full employment by 2018 is highly ambitious, but it’s achievable. If we make the right choices.”
The Fine Gael leader insisted the mistakes he accused the last Fianna Fail led administration of making in the financial crisis would never be repeated under his watch.
“My commitment as your Taoiseach and as leader of this party is that Ireland must never go back to the culture and practices of speculation, lack of oversight, wanton waste of public money and blatant disregard to our international reputation,” he said.
“The thousands of Irish families, who made such enormous sacrifices to rescue the country, can never again be subjected to such appalling governance.
“So the strong foundations that have been laid must be protected to ensure that the hard-won recovery is secured.
“To make that happen, we must plan for the future.
“If we make the right choices now, Ireland has a very bright future indeed.”