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Dublin: 3 °C Saturday 29 February, 2020

Labour's Brendan Howlin says Take Back The City is something 'he wouldn't be associated with'

Howlin yesterday faced down members of his own party at Labour’s think-in in Drogheda.

HOWLIN LEADERSHIP 90549121_90553028 Labour leader Brendan Howlin Source: Eamonn Farrell/

LABOUR LEADER BRENDAN Howlin has said that the Take Back The City activist movement isn’t “something I would be associated with”.

Howlin, who yesterday suffered a painful experience at the hands of his party members regarding Labour’s direction at the party’s think-in in Drogheda, said that he couldn’t see such action as a solution to the country’s housing crisis.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Howlin said of the ongoing occupation of vacant or derelict buildings in Dublin city centre that it is a “manifestation of a terrible wrong but I don’t think that it is a solution”.

“I don’t think that’s something I would be associated with, I don’t think the Labour Party would go down that route.”

“I have partaken (in civil disobedience) myself, I understand it and the motivation of it. But it’s not a solution,” he added. “The Labour Party is about providing solutions, not protest.”

Howlin claimed that the solution is his own party’s housing policy, which he described as being the only “spelled out” such policy from any political party in Ireland, which would see a budget of €16 billion over five years utilised to build 80,000 homes.

Take Back the City activists protest Take Back The City activists, pictured in the aftermath of a sit-down protest that brought Dublin city centre to a standstill last week following the forced eviction of the group from a vacant property on North Frederick Street Source:

‘Not fanciful’

“I’m a former Public Expenditure Minister, so it’s not fanciful, it’s real money,” he said.

He said that while there’s “not a thing wrong with” peaceful occupation, a better solution would be “much more compulsory purchase orders by local authorities”.

The Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) of vacant properties in Ireland is also one of the stated aims of Take Back The City.

Howlin also advocated for a dereliction tax but said that while such a tax “would have to be punitive, it can’t be at the scale that is confiscatory”.

Speaking from the D Hotel in the Co Louth town, Howlin insisted that the bruising encounter yesterday with members of his party was the “norm” and that he would “absolutely” be continuing in his role.

“It is the norm of the Labour Party to have robust debate,” he said adding that he wasn’t in the habit of “bussing people in to act as clapometers”.

We answer questions, we engage, we have members who want to change Ireland, that is what attracted them to a social democratic party.

He defended Labour’s standing in the polls which has stood stubbornly at 6% for a number of years, saying that the party had “tone into government in the most difficult of circumstances”.

“We always put our country first, we rolled our sleeves up to do right by it,” he said. “We did suffer as a result of that.”

He added that, far from getting wiped out in any general election, he expected Labour to double its seats (currently the party holds seven).

“I think that’s absolutely achievable. Our build is a slow build. I never believed it would be transformative. We have to win back people. People want the sort of Ireland that the Labour Party stands for.”

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