The Labour Party has launched its election manifesto and outlined €10bn in additional spending measures, with key commitments on Housing and Health — describing the twin issues as having “scandalised” the nation.
Leader, Brendan Howlin, said that €16 billion would be allocated to a social housing programme aimed at building 80,000 homes over the span of five years, with €5 billion of that figure to be sourced from the Irish Strategic Investment Fund, the Government’s pool for investing in private enterprise.
Labour’s new homeless strategy would meanwhile be implemented within its first 100 days in office, he said.
A three-year rent freeze is to be imposed, meanwhile, with Mr Howlin insisting that his legal advice is that it “should be done and it will be done”.
“At the heart of the housing crisis is a lack of houses — it’s not rocket science,” he said.
In terms of health, he said that Labour would be aiming to “stop Fine Gael’s waste”, with specific reference to the €2 billion National Children’s Hospital, with promised additional spending of €5 billion up to 2025.
Mr Howlin said:
An end will be put to the HSE’s ongoing perceived recruitment embargo, while Labour in power would echo Fine Gael’s own drive for free GP care for the under 18s, with Mr Howlin insisting that the initial drive for free care for the under 6s had resulted from his party’s time in Government prior to 2016.
“For most of progressive Europe the idea of paying for your doctor is not something that they would understand,” he said.
On childcare, the Labour leader outlined an ambitious new public childcare scheme, with rates to be fixed at European averages and an initial pilot scheme to involve 6,000 children.
The role of the Criminal Assets Bureau is to be “expanded”, while Labour is also to establish a “Gun Crime Commission” to learn about best practice in other jurisdictions. The party will also maintain a zero-tolerance stance on racism and xenophobia, it said.
On online infrastructure, the manifesto outlined that legal advice would be taken to explore the viability of reversing the decision to allow the national broadband network to fall into private hands at the end of the planned contract. However, there were no commitments to reversing the broadband plan itself.
“We’re making no grandiose promises,” he said, and described the €8.6 billion in tax cuts outlined by Fine Gael up to 2025 as “scandalous”.
“In truth both Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have proven themselves to be fiscally irresponsible,” he said.
Regarding Labour’s electability, he said: “We're not strong in numbers, but there are a lot of progressives out there who would vote for the Labour Party, and I hope that they do".
He urged progressive voters to continue their preferences for other parties with similar plans such as the Social Democrats and the Green Party.
In terms of red lines for his party in possible coalition talks, Mr Howlin said that he wants all workers to “have the right to be represented by a trade union”.
“One of the characteristic of well-functioning economies is strong trade unions,” he said.