It was so wonderful to meet so many of you at our annual ‘Think In’ this month in Maynooth. It is always a pleasure to catch up with colleagues and comrades, people who share our common Labour values of equality, solidarity, and fairness.
The local elections are just 8 months away and we have a fantastic slate of Labour candidates. These candidates range from dedicated long-time members to fresh new recruits. The calibre of candidates we will be running in the local elections in 2024 is, frankly, unparalleled and I look forward to seeing you all in the upcoming campaign.
Next month, we will find out what the uncomfortable coalition has in store for the country in Budget 2024. The civil war parties are continuing their old tactic – cynically throwing money around in an attempt to buy votes, without making the systemic and structural investment necessary for real change. That’s what makes Labour different – we have a vision for change, for a better Ireland.
As the Dáil term begins, our core focus will be on the worsening housing disaster. It is shameful that 12,847 people are homeless and that many more cannot access secure and affordable housing. In March, I launched Labour’s proposal to provide one million homes over the next decade and this term we will be proposing a clear financial plan to provide 50,000 new builds per year; and 50,000 refurbishments.
We will be pushing for an end to no-fault evictions and better protections for tenants and families in homelessness. We’ll be sharing our plans to increase housing supply, tackle homelessness and end the rental lottery. Our state-led plan for housing delivery will end the vacancy and dereliction crisis, reinvigorate our urban centres; and meet our emissions targets.
On care, we will call for universal public childcare, starting with a cap on childcare fees at €200 per month. Lack of affordable childcare is a significant barrier to women’s participation in work and society and young parents deserve our support. We will highlight the series of broken promises by Government on reducing hospital waiting lists and provide constructive solutions to the crisis in healthcare.
We will continue to think big on climate because the climate and biodiversity disaster threatens everything that we hold dear. We can and must reduce emissions, while also making the country a better place to live. Our climate ticket initiative would grant people unlimited public transport journeys across Ireland for just €9 per month. We need a comprehensive rollout of cycling infrastructure and the adoption of measures to limit fossil fuel-guzzling SUVs on our roads.
Much has changed in Irish society since the Labour Party was founded 111 years ago. We now have high Budget surpluses and low unemployment. We have the resources to provide decent housing for all; to develop strong care structures; and to grow a sustainable, green economy.
We want to build an Ireland which is not just tolerable, but enviable to grow up and grow old in. An Ireland that works – for all. We will make that case together.