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Howlin promises a 'root and branch' reform of ethics legislation

Meanwhile, Joan Burton has asked delegates for patience in seeing through welfare reforms.

Image: Photocall Ireland!

MINISTER FOR PUBLIC Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin has said the Government will undertake a “root and branch reworking” of the existing ethics legislation in Ireland.

Following the publication of the Mahon Report, the Minister said his department are still reviewing its recommendations but he is satisfied that a complete overhaul is needed.

We are in the midst of an economic crisis of unprecedented proportions. Yet the origins of this crisis are political too. Our political culture has facilitated instability in our economy.

“It took Fianna Fáil 14 months to destroy our economy and undermine our politics. It will take us more than 14 months to put things right. We’ve made a good start and in the years ahead will build on Labour’s proud record of reform,” Howlin told an audience of grassroots party members at the annual Labour party conference in Galway today.

Praising his party, he noted that Labour had emerged from both the Mahon and Moriarty tribunals with a “clean bill of health”.

“Long before others we campaigned to introduce transparency into Irish politics,” he said, citing the Ethics in Public Office Act, the Electoral Acts of the 90s and the more recent Freedom of Information legisation which all have origins in Labour party manifestos.

Our drive as a reforming party is without parallel in Irish political life. The liberalisation of our constitution in relation to remarriage for example, has its origins in Labour’s political campaigning. We have been to the forefront too in affirming the rights of women and gay people.

Meanwhile, Joan Burton has asked delegates for patience in seeing through necessary welfare reforms.

“Stay the course,” she said. “We will make every Social Welfare cent count to eliminate poverty and get people back to work.”

For every one of us in Government there are clear, however unpalatable, demands of the EU-IMF programme.  This doesn’t leave too much room for argument as long as we rely on that programme to recover our financial status as an independent borrower.

Elsewhere at the conference, Minister of State at the Department of Health Roisin Shortall has announced that 300 primary care staff will be recruited in the coming months.

A special allocation of €20 million has been secured to fill the posts despite the HSE moratorium on recruitment.

Shortall said such recruitments should be targeted at areas of greatest need because of scarce national resources.

Party leader Eamon Gilmore’s keynote speech focused on ‘recovery’ will be televised live on RTÉ One from 8.30pm today.

RTÉ reports that a number of protesters have gathered outside the conference at NUI Galway with just one outbreak of violent behaviour in the afternoon. According to the broadcaster, the Gardaí used pepperspray on a small group of demonstrators.

LIVE: Watch the Labour Party’s annual conference in Galway>

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