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Tánaiste Burton: 'Labour will enshrine equal rights from the workplace to the wedding ceremony'

The new Labour leader has been giving a press conference outlining her priorities this afternoon.

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NEWLY-APPOINTED TÁNAISTE Joan Burton has said she will strive to ensure that the government will deliver an economic recovery “that works for the many and not just the few”.

“My aim as leader of the Labour Party is to drive a social as well as an economic recovery,” she told her first press conference as Labour leader and Tánaiste in Dublin today.

Burton was speaking after being elected party leader earlier this afternoon, succeeding Eamon Gilmore. She met the Taoiseach in the Mansion House this evening and was formally appointed as Tánaiste.

In her press conference, Burton identified the issue of housing, particularly in Dublin, as one that needs to be addressed by government and said that Eamon Gilmore is “eminently well-qualified” for the role of EU Commissioner.

Burton laughed off the absence of Labour ministers Ruairí Quinn and Pat Rabbitte from her celebrations today, saying she had spoken to both in recent days including Rabbitte today.

She said that as Tánaiste she hopes to drive “an ambitious programme of social and affordable housing” and she set out plans to establish a low pay commission.

Burton said that the party had “governed perhaps too much with the head and not enough with the heart” over the past there years, borrowing a phrase from President and former Labour minister Michael D Higgins.

She said she wants a low pay commission to advise the government on the appropriate level of the minimum wage and ensure “no more attacks on low-paid workers”.

She said she wants to see a strategic investment bank to lend to SMEs established “rapidly” and said said there is “unfinished business” on legacy bank debt emphasising that she is “determined to keep fighting our case” at an EU level.

Burton said she is looking forward to working with Enda Kenny to win the referendum on same-sex marriage next spring.

“Under my leadership, Labour will enshrine equal rights – from the workplace to the wedding ceremony,” she said.

She said the party must reclaim the reform agenda and deliver “more aggressive change” to “restore faith in Irish politics”.

She said she is very concerned about the collapse of all-party talks on flags, parades and the past in Northern Ireland, saying that dialogue is the best way of achieving a solution.

Burton indicated that big spending departments like Health, Education and Social Protection should be included in the Economic Management Council of which she is now a member.

The Dublin West TD would not be drawn on whether she will push for Labour to have the  Jobs ministry after the reshuffle.

Asked if there was a way back for those who have quit the Labour party in recent years she said: “It’s always open to people to re-apply to join the Labuor party.”

She said anyone who wanted to rejoin would “clearly” have to support the party’s policies.

In concluding her opening speech she said: ”I will lead with my head as well as my heart and I will do my best to deliver.”

Read: Alex White concedes: “This is Joan’s day”

Read: Joan Burton is the new leader of the Labour Party

Read: Joan Burton to be next Labour leader as counting continues, Kelly to be deputy leader

About the author:

Hugh O'Connell

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