Labour Party ard fheis: Promise of €6k for first-time buyers

Tánaiste Joan Burton has staked her party’s place in Government on winning over struggling working families, after revealing that Labour will give first-time buyers €6,000 to buy their first homes as part of a €180m “save to buy” scheme — if re-elected to power.

The Labour leader made the pre-election pitch to the key section of voters as she claimed “a decade of opportunity is within our reach” which must not be squandered by “gambling” on opposition parties.

Speaking during a live TV broadcast just days out from the general election announcement, the Tánaiste repeatedly emphasised the need for this country to “stay the course together”.

Outlining a series of high-profile pre-election promises party figures hope will woo enough support to see Labour returned to power, she said: “The worst mistake we could make now is to squander our hard-earned progress by gambling on uncertainty.”

Under the plans, which have not been agreed with Fine Gael, despite the fact that both parties are seeking to continue their coalition, Labour has promised to give first-time buyers up to €6,000 to buy a home.

As part of the “save to buy” scheme, Ms Burton said the State will pay €1 for every €4 saved towards mortgage deposits, which have become far more difficult to achieve due to the Central Bank’s necessarily strict mortgage rules, announced last year.

The contribution will be capped at €1,200 per year, with users only allowed to enter the scheme for a max of five years — the full term of the next government, should it survive. It is expected to help 30,000 families and cost €180m.

Despite criticism that the policy is an attempt to buy voters with expensive promises, Ms Burton told delegates at the party conference in the Mullingar Park Hotel that the cash top-up is needed due to the “onerous” pressure on families trying to find a home.

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The Tánaiste used the speech to remind voters of her party’s plans to introduce a tax system which would see every €1 in tax cuts counter-balanced by a €3 spend on services; remove the universal social charge; and to campaign for a referendum on the eighth amendment in the next Dáil.

Criticising the opposition, she claimed none of these commitments can be made and introduced by anyone except her own party. “Labour, with our Coalition partners Fine Gael, inherited a ruin and rebuilt it. The decade of opportunity is within our reach,” she said.

Ms Burton also said the current Coalition must be returned to power because Ireland remains at risk of “further economic shocks” and needs “stability”.

The remark, which contradicts the claim of Public Expenditure and Reform Minister Brendan Howlin on Friday that those warning of fresh financial problems are “crying wolf”, is based on the current instability in the Chinese economy, and world oil prices.

Speaking to reporters at Fine Gael’s ard fheis last week, Finance Minister Michael Noonan admitted these two issues mean “it looks as if we’re moving to an uncertain period again” but insisted Ireland is “reasonably well positioned”.

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