Now it’s time to make a choice for the next five years – Burton
This is the last Labour Party press conference at the end of a long and vital national debate.
At the end of that debate, the choice facing the Irish people is still clear.
They can vote Labour to return the current Government to continue with the job of repairing and reforming the country.
Or they can vote for uncertainty and instability.
I have set out our offer to the Irish people as clearly as I can.
Only Labour will:
– Invest most of the available money in schools, health and childcare;
– Focus USC cuts on low and middle income earners;
– Deliver a referendum to repeal the 8th amendment.
Labour is the only party offering this progressive policy choice and the only party willing and able to deliver it in Government.
I want to see us deliver on this programme by returning the current Government.
The Taoiseach has also said clearly that he wants a renewed mandate for the current Government.
In fairness to Sinn Féin, their potential pathway to government is also clear.
They have said they will only do so at the head of a government involving Fianna Fail or a range of small parties and individuals.
But as of today, Fianna Fail have refused to tell us how they can possibly hope to be in government.
Fianna Fáil say they will not deal with either Fine Gael or Sinn Féin.
But they know – we all know – that this makes it impossible for them to be in government after the election.
So either Mícheál Martin doesn’t want to be in government or he is not being straight with the electorate.
It’s time for Micheal Martin to come clean.
I think it’s important that we now recognise the elephant in the room.
There is a possibility – I would say a danger – that we will end up in a couple of weeks with a government which apparently nobody wants.
Fianna Fail say they won’t deal with Fine Gael and Fine Gael won’t deal with Fianna Fáil.
And yet, if the current polls are an indicator, we are faced with the stark reality that an arrangement between Fianna Fail and Fine Gael may happen.
Public opinion is probably more progressive, more liberal, more anxious for change than at any time in the past.
And yet we could end up by default with perhaps the most conservative government in recent decades.
So I ask people who are minded to support the current Government to vote number 1 for Labour to make sure that they get what they want – and not something entirely different.
And I ask progressive voters, who may be dabbling with the idea of voting for a small party or an independent, to think twice before they vote.
Do they want to vote for people who will merely shout loudly from the opposition benches rather than steer the country to a better place?
Or do they want Labour in Government to carry on with the job of repair and reform?
I know that some people who voted Labour in 2011 were disappointed by some of the decisions which we took in Government.
I understand that, and we can argue at length whether we made the right decisions or not.
But as today’s independent analysis shows, as a party, we punched above our weight in government and got the majority of our agenda implemented.
From minimum wage increases to marriage equality, and much more besides, the economic repair and social progress of the last five years wouldn’t have happened without Labour in Government.
Now it’s time to make a choice for the next five years.
Those people have a stark choice to make.
I am asking them to put Labour back in Government.
I am not offering a workers’ utopia or a liberal nirvana.
But I am offering solid, sustained progress and reform as part of a coalition government.
Where we take the opportunity to build a strong economy with a decent and inclusive society – one we can all be proud of.
The alternative is a period of instability which the country cannot afford to risk.
Or to stumble into the most conservative government of recent decades.
Only Labour can provide a fair and balanced government.
Only Labour will invest most of the available money in schools, health and childcare.
Only Labour will focus tax cuts on low and middle income workers.
Only Labour will deliver a referendum to repeal the 8th amendment.
If progressive voters truly want to protect and extend the hard-won gains of recent years, they need to vote Labour on Friday.