Stop the Waste of Public Money, Build Homes and Fix Health

21 January 2020

Speech by Brendan Howlin at the Labour Party Campaign Launch, Dublin, 21st January 2020

Check against delivery

The Labour Party’s message in this general election is clear:

Labour will end the waste of public money, build homes and fix health. You will hear me repeat this over the remaining 18 days of the campaign.

Leo Varadkar launched the election by ducking out of Dáil scrutiny on the mess they made of the voting register, which has left thousands of people off the register.

It is just the latest slip up from four years of the dysfunctional Fine Gael – Independent Alliance government.

Leo Varadkar’s government inherited a recovered economy.

But their legacy is waste: a waste of resources and a waste of the opportunities presented by a recovering economy.

Fine Gael gave €700 million in 2018 to private landlords, because they refused to build homes on public land.

They spent €900,000 every day on private agency staff, because they refused to employ permanent public workers.

And Fine Gael have allowed bogus self-employment that will cost the state €250 million in lost social insurance every year.

People are entitled to get value for their hard-earned money not have it squandered by a government composed of individuals who have no concept of the struggles that most people face on a daily basis.

What people will discover, if they scratch the surface of Fine Gael’s time in government, is that it is very shiny on the outside but hollow on the inside.

Fine Gael have spent €7 million of public money on glossy advertisements in 2018 to raise their own profile.

In his first year and a half, Leo Varadkar spent €1.8 million on PR and advertising, versus Enda Kenny’s spend of €16,200 in the previous 18 months.

In other words, Leo Varakdar’s “spin unit” spent well over 100 times more on PR than Enda Kenny did.

Fine Gael even moved €1.5 billion from one state bank account to another to pretend to be prudent. That is the reality of the so-called “rainy day fund”. No new money was saved. It was a con job!

Despite pretending to be environmental, Fine Gael diluted the all-party report on climate action. And Ireland will have to buy €150 million in carbon credits due to Fine Gael’s failure to meet Ireland’s 2020 climate targets.

Despite pretending to be a safe pair of hands, Fine Gael have massively overspent on multiple projects.

They will spend nearly €2 billion on the National Children’s Hospital, which will be the most expensive hospital ever built on Earth, because Fine Gael ignored advice and did not look after the people’s money properly.

The overspend has led to €100 million of investments in other hospitals and schools being postponed or cancelled, and similar delays will go on for years to come.

We all want rural broadband, but the cost soared under Fine Gael, to six times the original estimate, despite covering 300,000 fewer homes and businesses.

The department of Public Expenditure and Reform estimated that this will delay the building of 2,000 council houses, 18 primary schools and 10 primary healthcare centres.

And Fine Gael have decided to give away the €3 billion network to the private operator, who can sell it on in ten years from now, so we don’t even know who will own it.

As well as wasting money, Fine Gael have failed to deliver for the most vulnerable people in our society.

Nearly 4,000 children are in homeless emergency accommodation, alongside 6,000 adults.

More than one million people are now on a waiting list for some form of treatment in our struggling health system.

In a country of fewer than five million people, that is a shocking fact.

Fine Gael are coming close to rivalling Fianna Fáil’s toxic legacy of mismanagement.

The people of Ireland deserve better than that.

Fianna Fáil ruined the economy in 2008.

Now they have spent four years facilitating Fine Gael’s mishandling of public money.

But they expect voters to believe that that there are profound differences between them and Fine Gael.

There are not.

The idea that Micheál Martin represent a change from Leo Varadkar is clearly false.

Little has divided the two parties over their lifetimes, and practically nothing over the last four years.

For four years, Fine Gael’s handling of the public finances has been backed by their partners in Fianna Fáil.

Fianna Fáil have claimed great influence over the budgets as their price for confidence and supply.

They not only kept Fine Gael in power, but they signed off on their tax and spending plans.

They have to carry their share of the blame for the legacy of waste.

The two latest opinion polls show that Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil’s combined support is around half of all voters.

The other half of society do not want either of these parties to lead the next government.

Our goal in Labour is to describe what a real alternative might look like.

We want to build public confidence that another Ireland is possible.

To begin with, we have to cut out the waste of public money to rebuild public trust in the ability of Government to deliver high quality public services.

We will publish our manifesto next Tuesday outlining our vision of an equal society.

Ireland needs a government of ideas that will implement change and put the public interest first.

Labour have detailed proposals covering each Government Department.

And we have outlined how we will pay for our policies, without raising taxes on ordinary workers.   

Labour believes in public services.

Labour has a vision of how Ireland can be more like other European countries that have built enough homes and provided good quality healthcare for all.

I have said before and I repeat now. Labour will not be part of any Government which does not sign up to implement our core issues.

Labour is not making extravagant promises.

We want to fix the basics.

  • Labour will build 80, 000 homes on public land, while at the same time capping rents, to end the housing crisis and to end long-term homelessness
  • Labour will ensure that hospitals and primary care centres are fully staffed, and that we are training enough medical staff for the future. This will end long waiting times and overcrowding.
  • Labour will freeze the state pension at 66 and guarantee the right to trade union representation at work so that everyone has fair pay and job security.
  • Labour will make primary education genuinely free of charge and we will develop a public childcare scheme for working parents.
  • And Labour will launch an ambitious programme of home insulation while investing in state enterprises to transform our economy, delivering new sustainable jobs through the ESB, Coillte and Bord na Móna.

But before we can do any of these things, we need to stop government wasting the people’s money, so that we can make the necessary strategic investments to build an equal society.

Labour will guarantee greater openness and transparency so that people can see where their money is being spent.

We are the party that not only introduced the Freedom of Information Act, but we restored it when Fianna Fáil substantially weakened it.

We are the party that took charge of the public finances at the worst of times, and we got the economy back on track.

Labour offers a real alternative to the failed legacy of waste from Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil working together.

We will stop the waste of public money, build homes and fix health.

ENDS

Notes to Editors:

STOP THE WASTE OF PUBLIC MONEY, BUILD HOMES, FIX HEALTH

The performance of Fine Gael, supported by Fianna Fáil over the last four years has been wasteful.

Wasteful of resources and wasteful of the opportunities that a recovering economy provided to build an equal society and invest in public services.

Only a vote for Labour and other progressive voices will change this. That’s the real choice facing the Irish people in this election.

Instead of building homes:

  • The reliance on rent subsidies will cost us over €700 million in 2020, enough to build 3,500 publicly owned homes.

Instead of public investment in our health service and staff:

  • €100 million will be spent purchasing private healthcare under the National Treatment Purchase Fund.
  • Over €300 million a year, nearly €1 million a day is spent on agency staff because of a HSE recruitment embargo and under resourcing of services.

Instead of fast-tracking the acute hospital beds that are needed:

  • The cost of the National Children’s Hospital has increased from €800 million in 2014 to €1.73 billion and rising.

Instead of building a publicly owned broadband network:

  • Fine Gael will give away €3 billion to a private company that gets to own it and profit from it, and the cost has spiralled from an original figure of €500 million.

Instead of taking on Climate Change with State led investment:

  • Ireland will have to pay fines of up to €150 million for carbon credits because we will not meet our 2020 emission targets.

Instead of taking on Bogus Self-Employment:

  • The State is losing at least €250 million a year in PRSI contributions, and denying workers their full rights and benefits.

Instead of trusting the people to make up their own mind:

  • Fine Gael were prepared to spend €5 million a year on their ‘spin unit’.

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