Thursday 19 October 2017

Aid health service by delaying refunds - Howlin

Labour leader Brendan Howlin Picture: Tom Burke
Labour leader Brendan Howlin Picture: Tom Burke
John Downing

John Downing

Water charge refunds should be delayed until 2019 and the money used to ensure the health service has enough funds for the winter, Labour leader Brendan Howlin has said.

Mr Howlin also said taxes should not be cut in the Budget, due to be presented on October 10, as services must be given priority over tax cuts already signalled by Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe. The Labour leader was speaking on the first day of his party's pre-Dáil think-in in Athy, Co Kildare.

The party has nominated Cllr Mark Wall to contest a Dáil seat in the local Kildare South constituency, which goes from three to four seats at the next election. Cllr Wall unsuccessfully contested the seat in 2016, which had been held by his father Jack Wall from 1997 until his retirement last year.

Speaking to journalists at the opening of the Labour think-in, Mr Howlin moved to anchor his party as the defender of public services.

"Our priority is to improve public services, there are real deficits because we have gone through such a time of hardship. I don't think there is space for tax reductions in that context," he said.

The Labour leader also rounded on Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, saying he was the most conservative minister in the 2011-2016 Fine Gael-Labour coalition in which both party leaders served together. Mr Howlin rejected claims Mr Varadkar was "a centrist", arguing he is right at home among the conservative members of the EU's Christian Democrat, EPP, grouping.

"For a start, Fine Gael is a member of Europe's conservative right-wing political family. It is not centrist," the Labour leader insisted.

Amendment

Mr Howlin said Mr Varadkar, as his government colleague, wanted deeper public spending cuts during the austerity times and initially opposed proposals to repeal the Eighth Amendment.

Other things Mr Varadkar opposed included gender recognition legislation, allowing transgender people to change their birth certificates, and the Labour leader also said Mr Varadkar had proposed outlawing public sector strikes during the Fine Gael leadership campaign.

But the Taoiseach rejected the Labour leader's comments, saying he was "in an ideological time warp". Speaking via a spokesman, Mr Varadkar said not long ago Mr Howlin was claiming credit for making him into a social democrat.

Mr Howlin also said a supplementary budget will be needed to fund the health services this year. This was why he raised the possibility of delaying water charge refunds to do this.

"Those repayments have to be made, but I don't think anybody would object to them being repaid next year rather than this year if that money is required to sustain our health services through November and December," he said.

Irish Independent

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