Labour promises to undo changes forced on people during crash; reduce pension age and increase wages

Labour promises to undo changes forced on people during crash; reduce pension age and increase wages
Brendan Howlin Labour Party Leader in the Mullingar Park Hotel today at the Labour Party National Conference.Photo:Leah Farrell/RollingNews

Labour has pledged to undo changes forced on people during the financial crash by first reducing the pension age and by also increasing wages and the delivery of homes.

Delivering the key speech at his party conference this evening in Mullingar, Westmeath, Brendan Howlin launched attacks on both Fine Gael and Fianna Fail and called on voters to send them a message in the upcoming by-elections by voting for change.

Mr Howlin proposed freezing rents, making childcare more affordable and banning all political advertisements on social media. Nonetheless, he refused to say who Labour would share power with if the opportunity arises after the next general election. He said:

"Ireland is now at a genuine crossroads. Economic inequality is growing. The number of multi-millionaires and billionaires is growing all the time. Yet generations of young people can’t get a permanent job, don’t have pensions, and will never own their own homes.”

Zoning on costs for households, Mr Howlin dismissed Taoiseach's Leo Varadkar's claim that he is delivering a so-called 'Republic of opportunity'.

“There is no real opportunity when one in four jobs is “low paid” by international standards. There is no real opportunity when rents are still allowed to go up 4% every year, while wages fall behind. There is no real opportunity when childcare costs more than you could earn working full-time.”

Mr Howlin also warned that a “toxic” racism was entering Irish politics. In the wake of protests over asylum seekers and other issues, he called for leadership. But he also accused the Taoiseach-at best-of sending out “mixed” signals on the matter.

Continuing attacks on the Fine Gael-led government and Fianna Fail who have supported the coalition under the confidence and supply deal for over three years, Mr Howlin added:

“The result has been record levels of child homelessness, massive over-spending on major state building projects, and the appalling treatment of women in the Cervical Check scandal.”

The Labour leader called on voters on November 29 to back the party's four candidates in by-elections in Dublin-Fingal, Wexford, Dublin Mid-West and Cork North-Central, adding:

“The real choice is between progressive candidates who will deliver real change, versus conservative candidates who defend the way things are. Let’s send a clear message that the current partnership government is a failure.”

Reiterating a pledge to work with the next government if 'red lines' are agreed, the Labour leader told delegates:

“Labour will not support any party to form a government, including from opposition, unless they agree to implement our core policies. We will negotiate our full manifesto based on our strength in the next Dáil, but we will not negotiate our core demands.”

Those core priorities are workers rights, housing, healthcare, children and climate change. During the day, Mr Howlin had refused to rule out or in working with parties after the next election, outlining how Labour was "seared" when last in power with Fine Gael.

Brendan Howlin Labour Party Leader in the Mullingar Park Hotel today at the Labour Party National Conference. Photo:Leah Farrell/RollingNews
Brendan Howlin Labour Party Leader in the Mullingar Park Hotel today at the Labour Party National Conference. Photo:Leah Farrell/RollingNews

One of the key new pledges made by the party leader this evening was to roll back changes to the pension age, introduced during the crash. He told the audience:

“We also need to revisit some of the decisions forced on Ireland during the economic collapse. The age for the state pension is due to increase to 67 in 2021. There is no need for Ireland to have a higher pension age than other European countries.

“The Social Insurance Fund that pays for pensions will have a surplus of nearly €4 billion by the end of this year. That is why Labour will campaign to stop the rise of the pension age to 67 for the lifetime of the next government,” the conference heard.

The leader also pledged, if in power, that the party would insist on a living wage-currently at 12.30-for all workers.

“Labour wants a living wage for all workers. That’s at least two-thirds of the average wage, for everyone.”

The party's manifesto for the next general election, the conference heard, would also include a huge public housing scheme to build 80,000 homes.

Rules governing political advertisements would also be overhauled under Labour, Mr Howlin pledged:

"Twitter has stopped political advertising. And Labour would ban political advertising during elections on all social media, including on Facebook and Instagram."

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