In a speech designed to put pressure on Labour to distance themselves from Fine Gael in the coming months, the leader of the country’s largest trade union will call on the party to return to its core values.
His comments come after Labour leader Joan Burton last night acknowledged at the party’s conference that the fight to be returned to government would be challenging. “Now, the fight for a second term will take all our energy, skill and courage. It’s going to be tough.”
Over the weekend, up to 1,000 delegates are expected to gather at Labour’s conference in Killarney, Co Kerry, where future policies and pacts for the general election will be trashed out.
The Tánaiste said coalitions were now firmly part of the Irish political landscape. “So our task is not to win a second term alone. It is to have sufficient strength to make our presence felt — just as we have done in this Government,” she said.
Ms Burton reminded members that Labour had opposed the bank guarantee, unlike other parties such as Sinn Féin, whose leader she attacked. “And when it comes to what we have done, what we have achieved, the opposition has wilfully short memories. Fianna Fáil created the monster that was the bank guarantee — and Sinn Féin voted for it.
“By profession, I’m a chartered accountant. Unlike Gerry Adams, I’m good at maths. I knew the bank guarantee was a bust. And I shouted as much from the rooftops.”
The party also voted to repeal the eighth amendment of the Constitution, which equates the life of a mother with the unborn, and endorse an internal party report proposing the broadening of grounds for terminations. These should include allowing terminations for fatal foetal abnormality, where there is a risk to a woman’s mental or physical health and where there have been acts of rape, incest or sexual assault. Senator Ivana Bacik, who helped oversee the report, said the changes would not be radical and that the eighth amendment was “deeply unjust”.
Meanwhile, the Siptu president is expected to say that the adjustment forced on people since the Coalition entered power in 2011 has been unfair. The union chief will point out that society has been divided by the water charges controversy.
He will urge Labour to use its influence to increase the conservation allowance for homes so it is enough to cover normal water usage. He also wants Irish Water to be made a non-commercial company. He is expected to call for the abolition of the USC and for it to be replaced with a levy targeting the wealthy to fund the health service and childcare.