Labour leader Howlin calls for election over 'fatally weakened government'

Labour leader Brendan Howlin has said it is now time for a general election following the loss of guaranteed support from two TDs in recent weeks.

Mr Howlin said we could not have a "fatally weakened government in charge at such a crucial time" as the resolution of Brexit negotiations grows near.

He said that a proposal by Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin in a letter sent to the Taoiseach today, which called for an agreement not to hold an election before March 2019, was "misplaced".

"There is too much risk that the hard decisions required to be taken would collapse the Government at the worst possible moment. The only way to resolve the instability is by calling a general election," he said.

"When this Government was formed in May 2016, it was already inherently unstable. With Fianna Fáil abstaining, the Government requirement for a bare majority was just 58 out of 158 TDs, but the Taoiseach can only command the support of 56 now, having lost the support of one of his own TDs and now one of his Ministers, who will apparently offer support on a case by case basis."

Mr Howlin also criticised the Budget which was released this week, saying ti was "spiritless and conservative...which failed to address the long-term problems our country faces".

"On housing, Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil favoured tax breaks to landlords and subsidies to developers instead of the transformative change proposed by Labour's plan to invest €16 billion in direct house-building," he said.

"The Government also completely failed to take meaningful action on climate change by ignoring the Climate Change Advisory Council’s advice."

He said it was time to hold an election to allow the people to decide, as the government's "wait-and-see approach is simply not delivering results".

Hospital waiting lists, the shortage of GPs in rural areas, childcare costs and the controversy surrounding the National Broadband Plan were issues highlighted by the Labour leader.

He said his party is ready for an election and would welcome the opportunity to debate the future of the country.

Earlier, Labour spokesperson on Communications Seán Sherlock said the National Broadband Plan is now in chaos and that an independent review announced by the Taoiseach was "a smokescreen".

"The National Broadband plan has been in trouble for some time now due to the failures of the former Minister," he said.

"The move by Minister Naughten in April 2017 to sign a deal with Eir to fast-track 300,000 homes that were originally to be part of the plan fatally undermined the process.

The announcement by the Taoiseach to ask the 'independent process auditor' Peter Smyth for a report on whether the process is contaminated, is a delaying tactic until the controversy dies down. The review is in effect a smokescreen.

"We know the process has been contaminated by the responsible Minister through multiple meetings with Mr McCourt.

"The one thing we do know is that 500,000 homes and businesses have little prospect of viable connectivity in the years to come. It will be 2023 before many see any connection, if at all, should the current process manage to falter on," he said.

Digital Desk

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