Revisiting Eighth Amendment not a ‘red line’ issue, says Burton
Issue will be ‘part of any negotiations’ if party is in position to enter Coalition after election
Parliamentary party members line up for a “family photograph” at the Labour Party think-In at the Glenview Hotel, Co Wicklow. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times
Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin at the Labour Party think-in at the Glenview Hotel, Co Wicklow. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times
The Labour Party will have no “red line” issues if re-elected to government, Tánaiste Joan Burton has said.
As her party gathered in Co Wicklow, Ms Burton said Labour would campaign in the next election for a repeal of the Eighth Amendment, which provides for the equal right to life of the mother and the unborn.
When asked if the issue would be non-negotiable, she said: “We will have that in our election platform and hopefully we will be a key part of the next government. We will be discussing that as part of any negotiations. But I personally never use terms like ‘red line’.”
The party has proposed a repeal of the Eighth Amendment in the next government term, but Taoiseach Enda Kenny last week said he would not commit to a referendum.
“The Labour party’s conditions of going into government are around renewal, recovery and getting back to work,” Ms Burton said. “We have already had a five-year working agreement on that, and that will remain the focus.
“On the social reform side, we successfully as a Government brought through the marriage equality referendum.
“In the Labour party, we have a long-standing position on the Eighth Amendment,” she said. “We had a very detailed proposal recommending a repeal of the Eighth, so we will have that in our election platform.”
On Monday the party voted unanimously in favour of an electoral pact with coalition partner Fine Gael, which was proposed by the Minister for Public Expenditure Brendan Howlin.
Dublin Central TD Joe Costello was the only party member to raise concerns about the voting agreement with Enda Kenny’s party.
Former Labour leader Pat Rabbitte told the private meeting it would send the wrong message if the pact was not agreed and would create an impression that the party was not happy with its record in Government. The party did agree not to use details of the election pact on literature or on posters.
Mr Howlin said Labour and Fine Gael were the only two parties who could offer a stable Government.
“It has been debated within the party and it has been fully accepted by the parliamentary party,” he said. “The only sustainable option that will sustain our economy and will have real progress available for the Irish people is the re-election of this Government. If you look objectively to the alternative across the Opposition, there is no alternative government that will sustain the economic progress we have made.”
Ms Burton said the electoral pact meant fighting for Labour first and foremost. “We’ll have our own platform, and we’ll be fighting for every first preference and every second preference in constituencies where we have two candidates.
“But after that,” she said, “I believe it makes sense to ask Labour voters to continue their votes to our coalition partners so that we re-elect this Government and give us the best chance to finish the job together – the job of realising Ireland’s immense potential over the next five years.”
Ms Burton said the Coalition should go its full term and an election should be held in 2016.
“I have said I want the Government to see out its mandate and to see out its full mandate,” she added. “The date is primarily for the choice of the Taoiseach. My view is that we took on a very big job of work when we agreed to take over practically the ruins of a modern economy when we took office.
“We should stay the course and finish the job as much as we can and then go to the people.”
Labour deputy leader Alan Kelly said much work had been done on the election manifesto and could be ready to go within days if an election is called.
Ms Burton told reporters that Labour would have a “very ambitious” platform focused on recovery.
The Tánaiste said she wants to see the phasing out of the Universal Social Charge over a number of years and a full restoration of the Christmas bonus.