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State of the Nation

What can Labour do to win back support?

Here’s everything you need to know about what’s happening in Irish politics right now…

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Everyone’s talking about…

Labour pains.

Retirement Council of Ireland Surveys Joan Burton Sasko Lazarov / Photocall Ireland Sasko Lazarov / Photocall Ireland / Photocall Ireland

Can Joan Burton get her party back on track?

The Tánaiste will be rallying the troops at the Labour party conference in Killarney this weekend. The theme of the event is ‘Opportunity 2016’, highlighting how focused the party is on the next election – come what may.

Labour has continuously bobbed along at less than 10% in opinion polls, coming in at just 7% in the Red C/Sunday Business Post poll last weekend.

Burton is remaining optimistic, however, telling reporters yesterday: “When the election comes people will make choices about what’s best for them, what’s best for their community, what’s best for their family, what’s best overall for the country.”

I don’t think that people have focused on those key questions yet, they will as the election draws closer.

The Social Protection Minister said the Labour party has played a vital role in ensuring the economic recovery, although she acknowledged it “hasn’t spread to everybody”.

Essentially, she mused, voters will be faced with two choices in the general election: stability or “taking a risk on people … who don’t really seem to have much capability to address the problems in the Irish economy”.

The agenda

  • Economist David McWilliams will appear before the Banking Inquiry at 9am, while Professor Terrence McDonough is set to answer the committee’s questions at 11.45am.
  • The Taoiseach Enda Kenny will launch the Low Pay Commission at 9.30am, alongside Tánaiste Joan Burton, Minister Richard Bruton and Junior Minster Ged Nash. The commission will look into raising the minimum wage and the cost of living, among other issues.

  • Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan will be fielding questions in the Dáil at 9.30am.
  • Tony Heffernan, founder of the Saoirse Foundation, and Avril Daly, chair of the Genetic and Rare Disorders Organisation, will be among those to appear before the Health Committee at 9.30am to discuss the national approach to rare diseases.
  • Officials from the Office of Public Works will attend a meeting of the Public Accounts Committee at 10am.
  • The Children and Family Relationships Bill will be debated at 10.45am, and again in the afternoon.
  • Joan Burton will be answering Leaders’ Questions at 12pm.
  • Plain packaging for cigarettes and climate change will also be discussed by TDs, after the Order of Business is read at about 12.21pm.
  • The European Affairs Committee will discuss the possibility of Britain leaving the EU at 2pm.

Inside Leinster House

There is discontent among the Fianna Fáil ranks, with John McGuinness saying the government should not rule out selling its Aer Lingus stake to IAG – in contrast to the party’s official stance.Transport spokesperson Timmy Dooley later took to Twitter to say his colleague was merely “expressing a personal view“.

What the others are saying

  • The Irish Times reports that the European Commission has again raised concerns about the funding model for Irish Water and other imbalances in the country’s economy.
  • Finance Minister Michael Noonan is open to a Fine Gael-Labour coalition backed by independents, according to the same publication.
  • Cityjet founder Pat Byrne has said the government’s rejection of IAG’s bid for Aer Lingus is “gombeen politics at its worst”, reports the Irish Independent
  • The same paper states that Health Minister Leo Varadkar will reveal the cost of universal health cover in April.

In case you missed it

  • Trust has risen in the government in the past year.
  • Jack Chambers defeated David McGuinness to be selected to represent Fianna Fáil in Dublin West in the next general election.
  • There were angry scenes in the Seanad over home repossessions
  • Two ministers were blocked from leaving a Dublin school by water protesters.
  • Health Minister Leo Varadkar discussed the new surrogacy law he’s drawing up, before visiting some very cute babies
  • Several people had a pop at Varadkar yesterday, including Fine Gael colleague Alan Shatter. 
  • Michael Noonan said Greece should follow Ireland’s lead on debt, rather than take the “nuclear option“.

On the tweet machine

One Senator aimed a less than complimentary pun at Enda Kenny.

Originally published: 9am

Read: This is going to be the longest general election campaign in history

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