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Dublin: 4 °C Friday 28 February, 2020

Labour promises three-year rent freeze, a living wage, and free GP care to under-18s

The party has launched its ‘Building an Equal Society’ manifesto this afternoon.

Labour Party leader Brendan Howlin with party members as they published their manifesto this afternoon
Labour Party leader Brendan Howlin with party members as they published their manifesto this afternoon
Image: Leah Farrell via

LABOUR HAS PROMISED a three-year rent freeze, a €5 billion investment into the health service and a raise in the minimum wage to a living wage if elected. 

The party has launched is ‘Building an Equal Society’ manifesto this afternoon. 

In relation to housing, Labour said they will freeze and cap rents for three years, and invest €16 billion to build 80,000 social and affordable homes over the next five years.

“People are scandalised by our housing and homelessness crisis and people are distraught with the dysfunctionality in parts of our health service where people are waiting endlessly for treatment,” Labour leader Brendan Howlin said. 

“At the heart of the housing crisis is a lack of houses. It is not rocket science and traditionally we have built houses,” he said. 

Howlin said his party had supported social and affordable housing as long as he could remember. 

However, he admitted it will be a challenge to find people to build the social housing.

“We need to have more apprenticeships, train more people to build the homes we need,” Howlin said.

“Just as we had concerted effort to address our economic crisis, if we have concerted effort and the political will and the determination to be done by the state, not by the private sector, we can solve the supply side of housing,” he said.

Until that is done we have to stop people becoming homeless and the single biggest cause of homelessness is rising rents, and that’s why we said very clearly that we would freeze rent until we got the supply side in balance.


Labour plans to invest €5 billion in the health service, and €1 billion every year of new money to end the recruitment embargo.

Labour also plans to raise the minimum wage to a living wage and freeze the state pension at 66, and invest an extra €200 million every year to make primary education free of charge.

“In terms of health, we spent a year collectively working out how, once and for all, that we could solve the perennial difficulties,” Howlin said. 

“We know what those difficulties are. There is a blueprint to do it, and it’s called Slaintecare. [That] requires investment of a significant amount of money,” he said.

“We’ve set out again a €1 billion – €800 million current and €200 million additional – this is an additional billion euro per annum, more than any other manifesto has committed to date, to address that net issue.”

Labour also pledges to extend free GP care to all under-18s. 

When challenged on whether it will add to longer waiting lists, Howlin said he “doesn’t get that argument that if you rolled it out to the under-18s it would clog the GPs surgeries”. 

“What you’re actually saying with that is that you’re not producing the number of children, but you’re saying those with the money in their fist are welcome, but those who haven’t, we will ration access,” Howlin said. 

“I don’t think any civilised society rationalises access for children to healthcare. I don’t think that people drop down to the doctors for the craic.

The reverse of that is happening. There are people making a decision right now not to go to the doctor with a sick child because the decision is whether we can pay the rent, or the electricity bill or go to the GP twice in the one month.

Sinn Féin

When asked whether he would be prepared to sit down and talk to Sinn Féin post-election, Howlin said he would be happy to do so. 

“I have said that I’m hopeful for a progressive alliance and I named-checked the parties and individuals that I believe could make up that,” Howlin said.

“I haven’t name-checked Sinn Féin in that because their tax plans are not progressive right now and that is a simple fact. I was asked would I sit down with them and as the son of a trade union official and as a trade unionist all my life, there’s nobody I wouldn’t talk to,” he said. 

“But in truth there are very significant barriers with having any dealing with Sinn Féin.”

Includes reporting by Press Association

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