In coming weeks, we will see an historic changeover of the Taoiseach from Micheál Martin to Leo Varadkar. This change marks an unprecedented moment in Irish politics, but the difference between the two largest ruling parties now virtually exists in name only. Regardless of who is Taoiseach, Labour has no confidence in this Government to address the housing disaster, the crisis in childcare, the situation faced by workers on low pay or in precarious contracts, the spiralling cost of living, or the climate catastrophe.
This country deserves a government with the imagination to do better and to act in the common good for all its people. Labour has a vision to protect renters and build affordable homes on public land; to lead the charge on climate justice; to bring about a new Donogh O’Malley with a new universal public childcare system for our youngest citizens; to guarantee decent pay and conditions for all workers; and to raise the floor beneath which nobody in society is allowed to fall.
You will read elsewhere in the newsletter updates on our upcoming motion on decriminalising vulnerable drug users, the Raise the Roof rally taking place on Saturday, and the recent Labour Youth and Labour Women elections. I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate Hannah Deasy and Hugh Murphy, the respective new chairs for Labour Women and Labour Youth. I look forward to continuing work with both sections in the coming year.
Reproductive Health Related Leave
In Ireland, around 14,000 women experience a miscarriage each year, and one in six couples experiences fertility issues. In 2021, Labour introduced a Bill to provide up to 20 days’ paid leave for women who experience early miscarriage, and up to 10 days’ for any worker undergoing fertility treatment. The Government promised to work with us to pass this legislation, but 18 months have passed, and it is still not law. To give effect to aspects of our proposal, this month, we sought to amend the Government’s Work Life Balance Bill. That amendment was disallowed, and the Government has indicated that there will be yet more delays. I am also concerned that the Government is not planning to provide time off for other reproductive health treatments, such as IVF.
We need to provide leave to people when they need it most. Campaigning by Labour members and supporters has kept this issue on the political agenda. We will regroup in coming weeks to see this necessary and compassionate measure introduced. If you haven’t yet signed our petition, you can do so by clicking here.
I welcome the new agreement which emerged from the recent COP 28 negotiations in Egypt. However, the failure of the COP process to deliver outcomes as opposed to commitments is generating cynicism amongst many. The COP process remains the only multilateral forum we have, so it is incumbent on us to deliver on commitments made. Elsewhere in the newsletter you will find a link to listen to the Bread & Roses podcast for further analysis on the recent COP 27.
Tackling climate change must start at home. Here in Ireland, we need to see more urgent action from Government, with the need to take a whole of Government approach, and to ramp up the delivery of measures necessary to meet our crucial climate emissions reductions targets. This Government’s approach to the climate emergency has been defined by delay, delay, delay. As we face into the next hurdle of the 2023 Climate Action Plan, we in Labour will continue to hold the Government to account.
RTB figures released on Thursday confirm that new tenants are paying an average rent of €1,464 a month, or €17,568per year. That monthly average rises to €2,011 in Dublin. The Government continues to miss its building targets and people living in rented homes are three times more likely to be in enforced deprivation than those who own their own home. As my colleague, Senator Rebecca Moynihan has said, so many renters are now trapped in a cycle with home ownership totally out of their reach.
The best way out of this crisis is to build, and to provide greater protections for renters. In recent weeks we have been raising the need to:
- Freeze rents until enough homes have been built to reduce rents naturally.
- Speed up the revising of income thresholds for social housing and HAP payments – despite inflation, the rates have not meaningfully increased since 2011.
- Prevent evictions by passing Labour’s Renters’ Rights Bill and ramping up the tenant in situ scheme to enable local authorities to buy renters’ homes where their landlord chooses to sell
- End the blockage preventing new homes from being built through root and branch reform of the unfit-for-purpose An Bord Pleanála