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Joan Burton says she has the passion needed to be the next Labour leader

She said the widening gap between the rich and the poor needs to be tackled.

Joan Burton
Joan Burton
Image: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

TACKLING INEQUALITY WAS one of Joan Burton’s main messages at the Labour Party leadership hustings in Portlaoise today.

Rich and poor

Highlighting a point made by Thomas Piketty in his book, ‘Captial in the 21st Century’, about the destructive nature of the widening gap between rich and poor, she said there is a need to wage a war on inequality.

Burton said she was fortunate to go to university, being the first from her inner-city convent school to do so, however, she added:

There are thousands of people who can say the same thing and it has led us to make a mistake in thinking that the extension of educational opportunity would bring an end to class divisions.

She said that in a “perverse way” society has reached a situation where even the modest successes achieved “are used against us by those who claim that success is open to all in modern society, that poverty is a personal failure rather than a social failure, that wealth and success is the deserved outcome of intelligence”.


She said this view of the world only perpetrates the myth that “poverty means you are inadequate, while wealth means you are admirable and increasing wealth should command even more admiration”.

Burton said that it is this divided society that allows the rich become indifferent to the public services that promote opportunity.

“They don’t want to contribute to public education, medical care or public amenities simply because they can buy all these things privately for themselves and in many instances are encouraged by the tax code to do exactly that,” she said.

She said that unemployment, jobs and inequality are closely linked.

It is her ambition as Labour’s new leader to establish a Low Pay Commission where evidence-based recommendations could be made to government on matters such as the appropriate level of minimum wage as well as issues such as the “abomination known as zero-hour contracts”.

She urged the Labour Party members to vote for her as their next leader.

Read: Alex White says it’s time to tell the IMF that ‘enough is enough’>

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