Ivana Bacik pledges to deliver one million homes over next decade during Labour Party conference address

Bacik promises 1m homes, unlimited bus and rail for €9 a month, new SUV tax, pay rises, guaranteed pre-school places, and universal healthcare

Labour Leader Ivana Bacik delivers her speech at the party conference in Cork. Photo: Rollingnews.ie

Hugh O'Connell and Philip Ryan

Labour leader Ivana Bacik has set out her ambition to deliver one million homes in the next decade as she slammed the Coalition’s “catastrophic failure” on housing.

In her first party conference speech as leader, Ms Bacik told the gathering in Cork yesterday she wants to achieve a “left-led green red government” after the next election.

She said Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil are “perpetuating an unequal Ireland” and that there had been a “catastrophic failure to deliver on housing” by the Coalition — but she notably did not mention the Green Party’s role in government.

Ms Bacik said Labour would deliver one million homes in 10 years, unlimited bus and rail journeys for €9 a month and a new tax on SUVs, a pay rise for workers, a guaranteed pre-school place for every child and universal healthcare, including free GP care for all under 18s.

“The State can — and we must — deliver 50,000 new builds and 50,000 refurbished homes a year for the next decade,” Ms Bacik said. “In a strong economy with financial surpluses, we can do this.”

Earlier, Labour was forced to defend itself against accusations from Fine Gael that it had objected to more than 10,000 new homes in Dublin. Labour TD Aodhán Ó Ríordáin said the party was “playing men and women rather than the ball” and accused it of using “classic deflection tactics”. He said Fine Gael councillors are “quite happy” voting against social housing and Traveller accommodation, which he and his colleagues had never done.

Earlier, the conference heard from UK shadow education secretary Bridget Phillipson, who said Ireland and the UK faced “shared challenges” on issues such as childcare and the private rental sector.

The Labour MP, whose grandparents are Irish, has been on a fact-finding mission as she devises her own party’s childcare policy. She said there needs to be a greater push on ongoing training and development for childcare staff, noting that unions in Ireland had successfully pushed for such reforms.

“We do face similar challenges around the wider education system as you do here in Ireland around the cost of education. Lots of parents in England are increasingly being asked to contribute more and more to their children’s education,” she told the Sunday Independent.

Labour in Ireland has pledged to abolish the voluntary contribution in schools. Asked what lessons UK Labour could offer Ms Bacik on rebuilding a party after electoral defeat, Ms Phillipson said Keir Starmer had united Labour post-Jeremy Corbyn.

“The first part of [it] was dealing with the big challenges we faced within the party, the second was demonstrating that the Conservatives weren’t fit to govern and didn’t have the priorities of people at heart,” she said.

“The third part, which is well under way as we’ve started to approach a general election, is how Labour will build a fairer future for all.”

Addressing the conference on Friday, former Labour leader Alan Kelly, who was ousted by the party’s TDs and senators last year, called for unity, saying there had been “too much talk” from people outside of the party about Labour’s future and said they “cannot allow others to write our story”.

In a thinly veiled attack on the Social Democrats and Sinn Féin, he said he has seen “so many competitors come and go down the years”, before adding: “I’m sure we’ll see more.”