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Sunday 10 December 2023 Dublin: 7°C
Leah Farrell/ Labour Party leader Brendan Howlin.
Red lines

Government cuts during Labour's time in power were 'awful', says party leader

The Labour Party’s terms for entering government in the future will be discussed at today’s think-in.

LABOUR PARTY LEADER Brendan Howlin has said policy changes implemented during his party’s time in government such as cutting child benefit and rent allowances were “awful”. 

Policies from the party’s time in a coalition government with Fine Gael from 2011-2016 such as cutting child benefit, cutting rent allowance and introducing water charges were pointed out to the politician on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland today. 

“All of that was awful,” he said this morning. “We made very difficult decisions to save a country from economic collapse.”

“I protected, and the Labour Party protected, the most vulnerable to the best of our ability.”

Speaking at the time of his party’s think-in before the new political season gets underway later this month, Howlin said that other parties “caught up” with Labour in terms of supporting movements such as same-sex marriage and repealing the Eighth Amendment. 

“We want to give people a choice, not between the non-choice of Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael,” said Howlin.

The Labour leader has said that the party won’t get involved in government in the future unless it can agree on dealing with five key policy issues. 

“We are only going to be involved in government formation if we can fundamentally implement all of the red lines we set out,” Howlin said earlier today.  

These red lines are:

  • ‘Genuine’ full employment where all jobs pay a living wage.
  • Radical housing policy changes – create a €16 billion fund to build 80,000 homes and further regulate the private rental sector.
  • Eliminate ‘fuel poverty’ and transition to a low-carbon economy – state-led programme of home retrofitting and investment to create new, sustainable jobs.
  • End health inequality and build high-quality public health system.
  • ‘Genuinely’ free education from primary level, further provision of hot school meals and pilot programme of public pre-school education in disadvantaged areas.

Howlin said these “clear, concise” policies will be the basis on which the party will contest the next election. The terms will be discussed during day two of the party’s think-in taking place in Co Cork today. 

Speaking at the think-in yesterday, Labour TD Alan Kelly said that the important thing for the party at the moment is supporting candidates in future by-elections and general elections.

“After that, we’ll have to face what comes with regards to going into government or not,” Kelly told RTÉ.

“It would need to be one hell of a deal… for Labour members to sign up to,” Kelly added. 

Howlin said yesterday that economic inequality is Ireland’s greatest weakness. He added that this inequality is due in part to the lack of “good jobs across the country”. 

“The benefits of the economy should be shared more fairly, for low paid workers and for those parts of the country that have been left behind,” Howlin said in a speech yesterday.  

- With reporting from Christina Finn

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