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Keeping €350-a-week Covid-19 unemployment payment at same rate among Labour's government demands


New Labour Party leader Alan Kelly. Photo: Tom Burke

New Labour Party leader Alan Kelly. Photo: Tom Burke

New Labour Party leader Alan Kelly. Photo: Tom Burke

THE Labour Party have set out a series of questions and demands that must be addressed by Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael if the party is to consider entering talks to form a coalition government.

Labour leader Alan Kelly has written to Micheál Martin and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in response to the framework document of government proposals that was circulated to smaller parties.

A commitment that the emergency €350-a-week payment for workers who lost their jobs in the coronavirus crisis will continue at the current rate is among five key questions highlighted in his letter.

He also wants information on how much the next government is prepared to borrow in 2020, 2021 and 2022 to maintain public services and make additional investments.

And he asked the leaders of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael to outline how they would plan to reach a Dáil majority if the Labour Party was to join a coalition.

Together Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have 72 TDs. Labour has six which would still leave a potential coalition between the three parties two seats short of a bare minimum majority of 80 seats.

Mr Kelly reiterated that the Labour Party has "made clear our view that it is the primary responsibility of other parties who recieved more votes in the General Election to ensure that Ireland has a stable government for the future of our country."

Mr Kelly pointed out that there are four parties in the Dáil with more TDs than Labour and any three of them could form a government with a majority.

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Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have ruled out doing a deal with Sinn Féin but are targeting the Green Party which has 12 TDs.

They have also held talks with Independents.

Mr Kelly said that Labour will talk to other parties and will "continue to play a constructive response to Covid-19.

He added: "It's my goal that we will have a robust role in the recovery of our country after the pandemic."

Mr Kelly said his party welcomes the line in the Fianna Fáil/Fine Gael framework document says "The importance of the well-resourced, properly functioning and responsive State has never been clearer" as a "bold social democratic statement".

But he said it's not clear how the policy goals will be resourced.

Labour sought Mr Martin and Mr Varadkar's views on this year's Budget and the stark financial projections by the Department of Finance and posed five main questions.

Firstly he asked how much the next government would be prepared to borrow this year and in the next two years.

The second question is what tax measures they would be prepared to consider and how a radical Programme for Government could be implemented without tax increases for high earners.

Thirdly Mr Kelly wanted to know what spending cuts are being considered.

His fourth question was seeking a commitment that the next government would honour the current public sector pay deal and seeking their approach to talks for a follow-on agreement.

Mr Kelly's fifth question was: "Will you commit that the Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment will continue at the current rate for workers who have lost their jobs in affected sectors?"

He said that understanding the other parties' approach to budgets "will provide the Labour Party with the framework to consider the compatibility of our vision for Ireland's future with what you have proposed to date."

Mr Kelly also outlined 21 principles his party believes would need to be "rigorously addressed" and sought a detailed response to each.

He set out the principles as follows:

  1. "The existence of the for-profit private healthcare system in parallel to the public system is deeply unfair, inefficient and must end, to make way for the delivery of a single public health system as envisaged in the Sláintecare Report. Some private hospitals should be nationalised as part of this process.
  2. Post-COVID-19 business supports must require the full participation of those employers in the industrial relations infrastructure of the State.
  3. There are too many low paid and insecure workers in Ireland, and this must be resolved.
  4. A Living Wage should be defined as two-thirds of the national median income.
  5. All employees should have a right to bargain collectively with their employers and to be represented by their trade union of choice.
  6. The developer-led approach to housing has failed to deliver enough affordable, good quality homes.
  7. The State must be central to a home building programme on publicly owned land.
  8. The Kenny Report [on capping the cost of development land] can be implemented by legislation.
  9. Strong regulation and direct State provision of childcare is needed to ensure a fair start for every child.
  10. All children born in Ireland should be entitled to citizenship by right and Direct Provision must be made more humane and person-centred.
  11. Ireland’s climate emissions must be halved by 2030 with investment in new infrastructure and technology to assist the transition to a low carbon economy.
  12. A Just Transition fund to help communities and workers adapt to a low carbon economy is essential.
  13. The State must develop a new strategy so that agriculture has a strong, sustainable future.
  14. The State must restore regional economic balance and deliver spatial planning with a complete recalibration of Ireland 2040 fully developed.
  15. Major investment in public transport is needed, with regard to the different needs of rural and urban users.
  16. A national broadband network paid for by the public, should be publicly owned.
  17. Much stronger local government, with financial independence, must be developed.
  18. The right to free education, and equality of access to education must be realised.
  19. There will be a need for increased taxation on wealth and assets.
  20. Ireland must introduce a minimum effective rate of Corporation Tax.
  21. A reform agenda to deliver transparency and accountability in government decisions must be implemented."

Mr Kelly concluded his letter saying: "The addition of the six votes of the Labour Party would not provide your combined numbers with a majority in the Dáil.

"With that in mind, i would also appreciate clarification on how you believe a stable Dáil majority might be achieved with the participation of the Labour Party?"

He said Labour will continue to appraise Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael's existing proposals and said he looked forward to their response.

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