Friday 15 December 2017

Labour leader Brendan Howlin attacks former Fine Gael government colleagues

Labour Party leader Brendan Howlin Picture: Frank McGrath
Labour Party leader Brendan Howlin Picture: Frank McGrath
John Downing

John Downing

Labour leader, Brendan Howlin, has rounded on his former government colleagues with whom he was sitting in Cabinet less than a year ago.

Citing his former cabinet colleagues by name – he accused Fine Gael leadership contenders, Leo Varadkar and Simon Coveney - of trying to drag the country to the right and setting public and private sector workers against one another.

And the former Public Spending Minister also condemned his close Finance Department colleague of six years, Michael Noonan, and Taoiseach Enda Kenny.  The Labour leader effectively accused both of merely serving out their time and doing nothing to act on important issues facing the country. 

“Leo and Simon square up to each other. Playing to their base – dragging the country further to the right. Running a false election based on tax cuts and shutting down Bus Éireann. Dog-whistles to their supporters on the right,” Mr Howlin said about the two Fine Gael leadership rivals.

“Meanwhile, Enda and Micheal are content to play for time,” Mr Howlin continued.

Addressing 1,000 party delegates at their first conference since their February 2016 general election meltdown,  Mr Howlin said the current Fine Gael-led Coalition was “a single-party right-wing government.”

He said progress made in the latter part of the 2011-2016 Fine Gael-Labour Coalition had now been lost. Action was urgently needed on things like the living wage, repeal of the Eighth Amendment and garda reforms.

The former Public Spending Minister said the Government had not delivered on public spending to develop schools, hospitals and other badly-needed public services.

Mr Howlin condemned the Government plan to create a €3bn “rainy day fund” and argued this money should be invested in public services projects.

“Even IBEC correctly say the Government has an austerity fetish.  They waste money on tax cuts that people barely notice but provide little of the investment we need so badly,” he told delegates in an address carried on live television.

The Labour leader also struck a note of hope on the party’s prospects of rebuilding its fortunes. He urged delegates “not to fight the last election” again arguing the emphasis must be on forging a new set of policies in order to contest the next election.

“The challenge now for Labour is not to fight the last election again.

But to listen to the people, and to prepare for the election of tomorrow,” he said.

r Howlin also called US President Donald Trump a racist, sexist and homophobe.

Online Editors

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