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Dublin: 6°C Thursday 21 October 2021

Burton hits out at 'bullying' water protesters and hard-left in prime time speech

Burton managed to take a swipe at everyone from ‘chaotic’ Sinn Féín to ‘can’t govern themselves’ independents as part of her main set-piece conference speech.

Image: Photocall Ireland

JOAN BURTON HAS been talking up Labour’s achievements in government this evening as part of her main, televised speech from the weekend-long party conference in Killarney.

Re-iterating promises on child benefit increases and paid paternity leave, she also took aim at Fianna Fáíl in her speech, saying the party’s introduction of the Universal Social Charge had had a “savage” effect on low-income workers.

While Fine Gael and Labour often approached individual issues in “very, very different ways,” she contrasted the current government’s performance with any possible future alliance involving Sinn Féín, saying it would be a “coalition of chaos”.

In a what will be seen as a veiled reference to the actions of Anti-Austerity Alliance TD Paul Murphy in Jobstown last year, she also referred to “progress deniers” in Irish society.

Some of them highjack peaceful protests to make their point.

“In a free society, that’s bullying,” she said, adding…

The Labour Party has a long, long history of standing up to bullies.

“And I’ll tell you something else: Labour women are not easily intimidated.”


Labour was helping build an economic recovery, Burton said.

“Unemployment will shortly fall below 10% for the first time since the economic crisis.

Over 90,000 new jobs have been created. 40,000 more are on the way this year. Wages have increased by more than 2% over the past year.

She said the current “hopeful spring” could be contrasted to what was an “economic winter” when the party took office, alongside Fine Gael, in 2011.

Nothing will stop me from leading the drive to rescue this country after Fianna Fail pushed it over a cliff.

Speaking of the party’s hopes for a second term, should it return to Government, she said:

“Our progress has been such that we’ll eliminate the deficit in this Government’s second term.

We’ll balance the books as part of our long-term plan to bed down the recovery.


Businesses and families were already beginning to recover from the effects of the crisis, Burton said.

“We must do everything we can to speed up that progress.

“Having already increased Child Benefit, we’ll do so again in the next Budget.

By the end of this year, we’ll set out the steps that will enable us to introduce two weeks’ paid paternity leave.

Regarding the coalition’s plans for housing, she said tens of thousands of affordable homes would be provided via the Construction 2020 strategy.

And at the same time, we’ll pump in a record €4 billion to provide 35,000 social houses by 2020.

‘Tears welled up’

Speaking of the upcoming same-sex marriage vote, Burton said she had recently met a woman at the Barack Obama Plaza in Moneygall who wanted to talk about the referendum.

“I told her what I thought and stood back slightly, because I thought she was going to be critical,” Burton said.

“Instead she told me about her beloved son – her beloved gay son, and her desire that he have the right to marry and settle down.

“She wanted what every Irish mammy wants for their child.

We were both a bit emotional… Tears welled up as I realised we’re fighting for more than just two people in a loving relationship.

“We’re fighting for everybody who loves them in turn.

Sinn Féin

Before closing, the Labour leader made time for a quick swipe at Sinn Féin and the Independents – saying there was “chaos on the opposition benches”.

Fianna Fail won’t enter government with Sinn Fein or Fine Gael, she said – and Sinn Fein won’t enter power with either of the Civil War parties.

“The Independents can’t govern themselves. And the hard-left are opposed to governing.

It’s a coalition of chaos – and the country simply cannot afford it.

By contrast, she said, the Fine Gael-Labour government had – despite their differences-  ”converted fear into hope”.

“What we share is a desire to secure the recovery and spread its benefits.

 And we work together – the Taoiseach and I – in partnership – to achieve it.

After seven years of “immense turbulence” a social and economic recovery was now being built, said Burton.

“As Labour Party Leader, I am fighting for a strong economy. And a society that’s just.

“The opportunity is there for us to achieve both.

The cranes are on the skyline again, the jobs are emerging again.

“A generation stands ready to come home to a Republic of equality, of opportunity, of hopes and dreams and possibilities.

“Let’s deliver for them.”

Read: ‘Hide your phone, here comes Joan’: A few hundred protesters are outside the Labour conference

Read: As Labour’s conference opens, Alan Kelly says this is one of the best governments ever

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