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On the canvass: ‘Cohesive society that is fair and works well’

On the canvass: ‘Cohesive society that is fair and works well’
Social Democrat candidates Sinéad Halpin (Cork North Central) and Patricia O’Dwyer (Cork South Central).

Affordable homes, better supports for parents, and a fairer and more equal society are among the promises in the Social Democrats manifesto.

A four-day working week, a clampdown on land hoarding, and the full implementation of health reforms under Sláintecare are also among the party’s election pledges.

Co-leader Róisín Shortall said the party, with its proposals, wants a “cohesive society that is fair and works well”.

Ms Shortall said there are “proven models in Nordic countries” that could be re-created in Ireland, by prioritising big issues such as health, housing, work/life balance, and transport.

Catherine Murphy, the other co-leader, outlined the party strategy: “Too often in Ireland we have settled for second best — public services which are not the quality they should be.

“As social democrats, we fundamentally believe that meaningful strategic investment in public services is the best way to put real money back in people’s pockets on a daily basis by ensuring they don’t have to fork out for the basic services the State should provide such as health, childcare, affordable homes.

“This manifesto sets out a very clear, practical path to deliver such a society.”

The party manifesto outlines big proposed changes for the workplace and the corporate sector, ways to reform the health service, and, above all, ideas to try and fix the housing crisis and end homelessness.

A key part of the manifesto is increasing childcare measures, including an extension of parental leave which would ensure parents can access paid leave for the first full year of a child’s life.

The first six months would remain as maternity leave, but there would be a further six months which could be shared between the parents.

This country is bottom of the league in regards to supporting new parents, said Ms Shortall. The average parental leave across Europe is 100 weeks, she added.

The Social Democrats are also proposing an early years payment of around €50 a month, as a starting amount.

There would also be a clampdown on banks writing off their tax payments because of previous losses. A new sunset clause would be introduced to stop this, said Ms Murphy.

Data courtesy of The Irish Times

“We bailed out the banks and the idea that they can get away with not contributing is immoral,” she said, adding that the same move had been introduced by the comptroller and auditor general in Britain.

Housing reforms and supports are another main part of the manifesto, with promises to build some 100,000 new homes over the lifetime of the next Dáil by beefing up the role of the Land Development Agency.

Under the plan, affordable homes could see average mortgages of around €800 a month, said the party at its launch. A nationwide rent freeze would also be introduced until housing supply increased and housing costs came down.

The party is running 20 candidates in the election and hopes to improve on its existing two Dáil seats to a possible return of between five and eight TDs.

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