Friday 6 December 2019

Burton asks voters to come on 'a journey' in speech full of promises

Joan Burton. Photo: Arthur Carron
Joan Burton. Photo: Arthur Carron
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Tanaiste Joan Burton has asked voters to go on “a journey” with the Labour Party and in return she will provide “continued stability” and a “modern Ireland”.

The Labour leader warned that the worst mistake we could make now is “to squander our hard-earned progress by gambling on uncertainty”.

She used her televised speech to outline a series of party promises including an annual increase to the old age pension of €5, a doubling of funding for the Arts Council and more affordable childcare.

Labour also plans to establish a ‘Save to Buy’ scheme to give first-time buyers a helping hand.

“This will give them a cash top-up when saving the deposit for a home,” Ms Burton said.

Around 600 Labour Party members applauded the Tanaiste as she made her pitch to the electorate, saying: “Fianna Fail inherited a boom and blew it. Labour, with our coalition partners Fine Gael, inherited a ruin and rebuilt it.”

She said the people did the “hard yards” but “extraordinary” effort and sacrifice is paying off.

“Right now, the recovery remains incomplete, and there are risks ahead. The world economy remains in a fragile state. Stability is vital,” Ms Burton said.

She said the Labour Party has “a duty to every person and family who has sat at a kitchen table during the crisis and wondered how they’d last until pay-day, or cover the pay-roll”.

“Our duty to them – to you – is to sustain the recovery. Make sure we never go back. No return to crisis.

“So if something isn’t affordable or responsible, we won’t do it.

“And we’ll steadily reduce our national debt so that we’re prepared for any trouble that lies ahead.

“Sound public finances are the bedrock of everything we do,” she said.

Ms Burton added that “from Ruairi Quinn in the 90s to Brendan Howlin today” Labour’s track record of managing the public finances “is second to none”.

She said her proudest day as a Labour Party member was “on that joyful Saturday last May” when the marriage equality referendum passed.

“I’m proud to lead a party tolerant of all creeds and none.

“As a result of the marriage equality referendum, every child will grow up knowing their country accepts them.

“Whoever it is they grow up to be, and whoever it is they grow up to love,” she said, adding: “I was never prouder of Ireland.”

However, Ms Burton said “the journey to create a modern Ireland is not over”

“Some time ago, I spoke with a woman whose unborn baby had been diagnosed with a fatal foetal abnormality.

“That baby was much wanted, much loved - but had no chance of surviving to term.

“In such tragic circumstances, some women will wish to see out their pregnancy.

“Some will not, and it’s not right that our answer is to send them abroad,” Ms Burton said.

“Sending women abroad was the 20th century answer – and it was the wrong answer.

"It’s not the answer of a compassionate state.”

The Tanaiste said Environment Minister Alan Kelly “will chop waiting lists by building high quality social houses”.

“Labour will use the strong economy to annually increase the pension by at least €5 a week.  It’s the very least our older people deserve,” she said.

And she reached out the arts world by saying extra funding would be provided for both the Arts Council and Film Board over the next five years if Labour are returned to government.

“I believe public endowment of the arts is returned many times over,” she said.

Ms Burton concluded by making a direct plea for number one votes so the country can “seize the decade of opportunity that is ahead of us”.

“Together, we’ve made a good start. A good start is half the work. So let’s complete the journey,” she said.

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