Burton makes last-ditch plea to voters as party fights for its survival
Published 16/02/2016 | 02:30
Tánaiste Joan Burton made a last ditch plea to voters to return Labour to government as the party fights for its survival with the election date looming.
Speaking at the launch of Labour's election manifesto, Ms Burton called on voters to return her party to government to ensure "balance" in a future Fine Gael led coalition.
"As leader of the Labour Party, I am asking the people to vote for the only combination of parties that can provide us with stability," she said.
"And I'm asking them to vote Labour Number One, so as to give that Government the balance that it needs," she added.
Ms Burton insisted Labour will ensure €3 out of every €4 in additional State funding will be invested in school, housing and the health service.
The Labour leader said this will be a key issue for the party if it enters programme for government talks with Fine Gael after the General Election.
Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin described the manifesto as "unconditionally left of centre" - but insisted Labour will be able to work out policy differences with Taoiseach End Kenny's party if voters return the Coalition partners to power.
"We are two separate parties with very long and separate traditions (but) because we have a different perspective doesn't mean we can't come to agreement," Mr Howlin said.
The Labour manifesto includes commitments to:
- Increase minimum wage to €11.30
- Raise the weekly pension to €260
- Reduce classroom sizes to the "smallest in the history of the State"
- Provide universal free GP care
- Reduce childcare costs to €2 per hour.
Ms Burton insisted holding a referendum to repeal the Eight Amendment will also be key issue in coalition talks.
Labour will abolish USC for the first €72,000 of income and introduce additional PRSI cuts for low earners.
And with opinion polls showing a hung Dáil the most likely outcome after the General Election, Labour is proposing a "more relaxed" whip system in Leinster House .
The party said this reform will give "greater standing and independence" to TDs.
It will also allow 16-year-olds vote in local and European elections, and hold a vote on introducing a directly elected Dublin mayor.
At the event on the DIT campus in Grangegorman, Mr Howlin launched a deeply personal attack on Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin.
Referring to Mr Martin's decision to resign from the last Fianna Fáil government, the minister said he pretends former Finance Minister Brian Lenihan was his "best friend" when in fact he was his "biggest rival".
"Micheál is peddling a fairy story about Government. When the going got tough for the last government he left it," Mr Howlin said.
But last night, Mr Lenihan's aunt and former Fianna Fáil TD Mary O'Rourke said she never heard her nephew say a "single bad word" against Mr Martin.
"I was never aware of any sense of tensions between them and I don't remember any public or private squabbles between them," Ms O'Rourke told the Irish Independent.
Fianna Fáil sources close to Mr Martin dismissed Mr Howlin's comments as "desperation".
"It's actually dishonest and it couldn't be further from the truth to suggest he had fractious relationship with Brian," the source said.
Alan Kelly said Gerry Adams commitment to abolish Irish Water is "illegal" and called on the Sinn Féin leader to set out his plans to the thousands of workers who would lose jobs if he closes the State utility