Thursday 22 March 2018

'Don't bet on an early election' - Joan Burton clarifies nature of 'friendly conversation' with Enda Kenny

Joan Burton has had 'friendly conversation' with Enda Kenny about NOT calling an early election

Taoiseach Enda Kenny with Tanaiste Joan Burton Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Taoiseach Enda Kenny with Tanaiste Joan Burton Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Daniel McConnell & Niall O'Connor

Tanaiste Joan Burton has moved to clarify the nature of a private conversation she had with Taoiseach Enda Kenny today, in which she argued against going early to the country.

"Well I wouldn't bet on it. I don't know if you have been down to the bookies, but I wouldn't bet on it," she said.

Speaking to reporters, Ms Burton denied Mr Kenny had given her any guarantee or assurance on anything to do with the election, but she set out clearly why she wants to wait until next Spring.

At a party event in the Merrion Hotel in Dublin, Ms Burton said the Labour Party wants to see the Banking Inquiry finish its work in January and would not countenance going before it completed its work.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Tánaiste Joan Burton Photo: Mark Condren
Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Tánaiste Joan Burton Photo: Mark Condren

In relation to the on going tense negotiations over a Health budget for next year, Ms Burton confirmed that Health will get extra "substantial resources" this year.

"Let me be clear, we will provide very significant resources for health. There is a clear agreement between both parties in that regard. But what we also want to see is a significant improvement in the management of healthcare in Ireland," she said.

"We have unresolved issues in relation to emergency departments and Accident and Emergency departments and certainly in this Budget, there will be significant resources allocated to health, but they really have to be on foot of delivering improvements on a phased basis. But we haven't signed off on anything yet," she said.

It comes as Health Minister Leo Varadkar has held his crunch bilateral meeting with Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin over funding of the health sector for next year.

Earlier, Burton she had a "long conversation" with Taoiseach Enda Kenny about not calling an early election.

"I have always said we would stay the course and do the five [years].  I had a long conversation with the Taoiseach yesterday, a very friendly conversation," she added.

"I think we know we have a job of work to do, and we committed to doing it," she said.

Mr Kenny, at the same event which was to announce the creation of 200 new jobs at software company, Workday, joked that the constitution provides for the Government to last for seven years, but "the convention means five".

Ms Burton, was adamant the Government has much work still to do before going to the polls.

The Tanaiste said that the Government has to pass three very important pieces of legislation before the end of the year and is committed to doing so.

"The first is the finance bill. From what I know of it so far it is quite long, fairly lengthy," she said.

"Secondly, you have the Social Welfare Bill and thirdly you have the FEMPI legislation, the most complex of them all. This will arrange the restoration of the pay reductions and pension levies in respect of public servants," she added.

"Each of those is an absolute commitment, of the Government and each of those will be passed in due course,"Ms Burton said.

The Labour Leader also said she wants to allow the Oireachtas Banking Inquiry, which is to cost about €5m, to be given time to complete its work.

"We also have, and everyone in Government is conscious of this, that we made a priority of the banking inquiry.  Under Dail rules, the inquiry now has an extension into January and I think it is important that we should allow the inquiry completes it course," she added.

Ms Burton also sought to allay concerns about 1,500 job losses at Irish Water.

The Tanaiste said she was content that the redundancies would happen by way of natural wastage or on a voluntary basis.

She said it was important to note that this Government was not repeating the  mistake of the HSE back in 2002, and these redundancies would deal with the overstaffing issue at Irish Water.

"I think the Government has learned from some of the bad things that happened in the HSE. I think the Irish Water plan has been well signalled, the redundancies will either be through retirement or voluntary redundancies," she said.

"I would be very confident that the end result would be a very efficient water service for Ireland," she added.

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