Howlin: Labour will not join Government just to make up numbers

Howlin: Labour will not join Government just to make up numbers
Brendan Howlin Labour Party Leader in the Mullingar Park Hotel today at the Labour Party National Conference. Photo:Leah Farrell/RollingNews

Labour will not participate in government unless it can "radically transform the policy platform" of the state and see 'five red line' policies implemented, leader Brendan Howlin has pledged.

Speaking at his party's one-day conference in Mullingar, Westmeath, Mr Howlin called for transfer-friendly voting in the four upcoming by-elections.

These elections were akin to a “mini-election”, he said, and voters wanted “real change”.

Mr Howlin and his party strategists are calling on voters to give their second and other preferences to other like-minded so-called left wing parties, such as the Social Democrats, the Greens and Independents, in the November 29 by-elections as well as in next year's expected general election. This is indifferent of whether those other parties return the favour.

He explained:

"I have said again and again that-without precondition-I'm asking people to transfer after giving their number one vote to labour candidate to transfer to progressives for the elections as well for the by-elections and that is without preconditions.

"I hope that they would reciprocate. But I think it's the issue of having a progressive majority is too important for me to be doing trading deals on that.”

Despite being pressed on whether Labour would go into coalition with Fine Gael or Fianna Fail, Mr Howlin would only say that any decision on his party returning to government would be based on policies and not personalities.

“I have no interest in advising, a future conference to participate in any government, unless we radically transformed the policy platform of the state,” he added.

He also accused Fianna Fail of being “pretenders” and of allowing the government, under the confidence and supply agreement, to “limp on” for the last three years

Nonetheless, Mr Howlin refused to rule out working with either Fine Gael or Fianna Fail after the next election. Any coalition pact must be based on five 'red lines'. These include a major public housing programme, income equality commitments and free GP care among issues.

Earlier, Labour health spokesman Alan Kelly warned that the health crisis would be the “worst ever” in the months ahead as evidenced from 679 people waiting on hospital trolleys last week.

He claimed the overspend on the national children's hospital would haunt generations to come and and he also accused Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe of being “asleep at the wheel” for overseeing the bloated €1.7bn spend.

Mr Howlin later this evening will deliver the conference's key speech where he is expected to ramp up party momentum for this month's by-elections and Labour's prospects of adding to their Dail numbers.

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