Labour attacks ‘dysfunctional’ Fine Gael coalition at party launch

Election campaign launch: Howlin says his party will ‘end the waste of public money’

Jack O Connor, Alan Kelly and Brendan Howlin. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins.

Jack O Connor, Alan Kelly and Brendan Howlin. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins.

 

Labour has launched a scathing attack on its former coalition partner Fine Gael, accusing the party of running a “dysfunctional, wasteful” Government.

Formally launching Labour’s election campaign in Dublin, party leader Brendan Howlin said the Government was “shiny on the outside but hollow in the middle”.

He claimed Fine Gael’s legacy in office was “almost as toxic” as Fianna Fail’s. and said Taoiseach Leo Varadkar inherited a “recovered economy”, said but Fine Gael’s legacy was one of “waste of resources and waste of opportunities”.

Mr Howlin also said his party did better than what appeared in opinion polls following the party’s drop of 1 per cent in the Ipsos/MRBI poll in The Irish Times.

He said a national opinion poll did not reflect their capacity to win seats and was confident they would win “double digits” in seats.

The Labour leader pledged to “end the waste of public money, build homes and fix health”.

Mr Howlin also launched a number of the party’s 31 Dáil candidates including Mayo candidate Karim Uddin, Cllr Duncan Smith in Dublin Finglas, Cllr Juliet O’Connell in Dun Laoghaire and former TDs Cllr Joe Costello Dublin Central, Senator Kevin Humphreys Dublin Bay South and Emmet Stagg Kildare North.

‘Fix the basics’

In his attack on Fine Gael, which echoes that of a number of parties, he said the Government had allowed bogus self employment to thrive losing €250 million a year in social insurance contributions.

Its reliance on rent subsidies would cost the taxpayer over €700 million this year that went “into the pockets of landlords because they refused to build local authority houses”.

Almost €1 million a day went on agency staff for the HSE because of a recruitment embargo. The cost of the national children’s hospital had risen from €800 million to €1.73 billion and was still rising.

He also hit out at Fine Gael spending €7 million of public money on “glossy advertisements to raise their own profile in reference to the Government’s launch of the Project Ireland 2040 and the development of the controversial strategic communications unit.

Mr Howlin said figures showed the Taoiseach spent €1.8 million on PR and advertising in his first 18 months in office compared to €16,000 by then taoiseach Enda Kenny in the previous 18 months. The Government defended this spending at the time, saying the higher figure included a number of public information campaigns.

Mr Howlin said Ireland needed a Government with ideas, and Labour believed in public service.

He said “we want to fix the basics” and he insisted he would keep the State pension age at 66.

Labour’s health spokesman Alan Kelly said the cost of agency staffing for the HSE was destroying the health service.

Mr Kelly also hit out at Fianna Fáil accusing them of “practising the privatisation of health care” through the National Treatment Purchase Fund, spending €200 million a year that would cost €1 billion over five years.