Thursday 23 November 2017

Battle of the Left: Howlin and Boyd Barrett clash on air

Richard Boyd Barrett at a press conference yesterday. Photo: Tom Burke
Richard Boyd Barrett at a press conference yesterday. Photo: Tom Burke
Brendan Howlin.

John Brennan

THE so called 'Battle of the left' took place on Newstalk this morning as People Before Profit’s (PBP) Richard Boyd Barrett and Labour’s Brendan Howlin clashed.

Mr Boyd Barrett, who is hoping to be re-elected in the Dun Laoghaire constituency, said that PBP had been consistent throughout the last Dail and were aiming to unite the left.

“We have been the most consistent since we entered the Dail in actually defending the principles of fairness and equality,” he explained.

Mr Howlin, however, said the only consistency that Mr Boyd Barrett had shown was “to oppose everything we needed to do" to get the economy back.

“We would, had we followed the path that Richard and his colleagues mapped out for us, be like Greece now – he was the champion of Syriza,” Howlin said.

Mr Boyd Barrett refuted this and accused the government of introducing what he called “unfair measures” like water charges and property taxes and criticised the Labour Party for breaking their promise to burn the bondholders saying that the party had failed to protect the vulnerable.

“They have created the worst housing and homelessness crisis in the history of the state and made a shambles of the public health service,” Mr Boyd Barrett added. 

The outgoing Minister for Public Expenditure however denied that the Labour party had betrayed the left.

“We’ve taken 700,000 people – the lowest paid – out of the universal social charge, we have twice increased the minimum wage… we’ve restored trade union right - we’re the only country in the western world who has given collective bargaining rights to the trade union movement,” he said.

In terms of protecting the vulnerable, Mr Howlin was bullish saying that social welfare spend was 40pc of everything the government now spends and pointed to the fact that there were 135,000 people back to work under the governments watch.

He defended the governments decision not to burn the bondholders saying that the President of the ECB had warned of “dire consequences” for Ireland had the government had done so.

Mr Howlin again pointed to the example of Greece saying that the banks had closed for three weeks and the economy “virtually collapsed”.

On the housing crisis, Mr Howlin accused Fianna Fail of abandoning social housing seven years ago and said there was “no money” when Fine Gael and Labour got into government.

“You can’t spend money you don’t have,” he concluded.

Mr Boyd Barrett said that it was “untrue” to say that there weren't choices, “in all of the years Brendan says there was no money, he went along with paying seven and eight billion to bond holders for an odious debt that was not the debt of the people of this country.

“Money that could have gone into social housing, the health service, education," he said.

Mr Howlin said that what Mr Boyd Barrett was suggesting was to default on their national debt "as if that was something you could do without a disastrous consequence".

Mr Boyd Barrett added that no matter what Mr Howlin or Labour said  the people that voted for the Labour in 2011 looking for protection had been abandoned, adding that the polls would reflect this on election day.

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