LABOUR CONFERENCE: ‘The people want’ two weeks’ paid paternity leave

Same-sex couples could benefit after Labour vowed to introduce two weeks’ paid paternity leave for fathers this year.

Equality Minister Aodhán Ó Ríordáin made the prediction as the party outlined €250m in family measures to woo election support.

However, it is likely all of the promises will depend on Labour winning an unresolved internal government battle with Fine Gael over whether to spend an estimated €3bn from the sale of AIB shares next year on social projects or writing down the national debt.

Speaking during a two-hour debate on equality issues, Mr Ó Ríordáin said he strongly believes the two weeks’ paid change — which was put forward in a motion last night and is now party policy — is something “we can do this year and people want us to do this year”.

He said the move is needed to show people they are not just seen as taxpayers, adding Ireland can only be seen as “a real Republic” if people know they will be supported during important times in their lives.

When it was put to him byKathleen Lynch, the junior health minister, that the two weeks’ payment should also be accessible by same-sex couples if they become parents, Mr Ó Ríordáin agreed and said the initial fathers-focussed move is “a start” towards these initiatives.

The push towards paid paternity leave was further backed by Tánaiste Joan Burton in a keynote speech on Saturday night, which the Labour leader also used to outline €250m worth of plans to raise child benefit by €5 a month and introduce the long-promised second free pre-school year.

Meanwhile, Education Minister Jan O Sullivan will publish a report this summer to address concerns over discrimination against the Travelling community when it comes to enrolling in schools, after a Supreme Court decision last week.

Mr Burton and Ms Lynch also claimed the long-drawn out GP contract deal to allow free access to care for children under six could be agreed “within weeks”.

READ MORE: LABOUR CONFERENCE: IRA rape victim ‘will not be silenced’

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