Monday 5 December 2016

Labour finally gets its way as 'every little helps'

Published 14/10/2015 | 02:30

It's not a secret that Tánaiste Joan Burton is in no rush back to the hustings
It's not a secret that Tánaiste Joan Burton is in no rush back to the hustings

It was December 2009 when Brian Lenihan told us that we had "turned the corner" - seemingly unaware of the economic horror that lay ahead.

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A year after the late finance minister made that speech, the Labour Party, under Eamon Gilmore, told us that they would shield us from 'Frankfurt's way'.

Almost one-in-five voters believed their Tesco-style ads warning that 'Every Little Hurts' and gave them the chance to be in Government.

But in the years that followed, the country continued down a road where budget after budget left us near fatally wounded.

By December 2012, a front page headline of the Irish Independent read: 'We've no more to give'.

Yet on we careered, down the road of austerity.

Medical cards were taken away, social welfare payments were cut particularly for young people, a property tax was introduced, garda stations closed, our savings taxed and maternity benefits slashed. The cuts seemed endless.

Even the vulnerable and 'grey voters', who tend to be the last people any government wants to hit, weren't spared.

They lost their telephone allowance, watched as the respite care grant was chopped and there was no escape from water charges.

Labour were accused of showing no mercy and today we can see the human legacy of those dark years.

There is a homeless crisis, the never-ending trolley disaster is worse than ever, hundreds of thousands of our young people are abroad, and people in rural Ireland are afraid in their homes at night.

Rightly or wrongly, the Labour Party has gotten most of the blame. They were the ones who promised to protect us from the pain and the majority of the 430,000 who voted for them feel betrayed.

But yesterday the country may have finally turned the corner to a better place.

It's not a secret that Tánaiste Joan Burton is in no rush back to the hustings. She spent all of last week fighting off Fine Gael demands for an early election. In the background she was also fight for a 'Labour Budget' and it's hard not to think that she won on both counts.

There was money for working families, for the young and the old. The respite grant is back, the fuel allowance is up, €3 on the pension and a childcare package that will save parents €1,000 a year.

All the damage inflicted over the five years of this Government won't be undone in one budget, but they had to start somewhere.

So Ms Burton will go back to the electorate next spring with an altered message: 'Every Little Helps'.

The only negative was that her deputy leader Alan Kelly couldn't agree on a housing package - although Ms Burton may not be too upset to see her understudy struggle.

Labour feel they are now on the road to redemption - but it could be as long as the austerity route taken by the voting public in recent years.

Irish Independent

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