All posts by Joan Burton

Joan Burton TD is an Irish politician who has served her country as Leader of the Labour Party, Tánaiste (Deputy Prime Minister) and in a number of ministerial roles - most recently as Minister for Social Protection from 2011 to 2016.

A Fair Start for Every Child

It is expensive to raise a family in Ireland, but we can ensure that no child is left behind. We must ensure that all of our children are treated equally and given the chance to fulfil their potential.

Labour will make primary education genuinely free-of-charge, to fulfil the guarantee in the Constitution. This will include a free schoolbooks scheme, a uniform grant and free healthy school meals.

Childcare needs to change. We need to bring Ireland into line with our European neighbours. Labour will develop a public Childcare Scheme for Working Parents, because parents should never have to choose between their children and their job. We will first target parents who cannot work because of the prohibitive cost of childcare. The service will include early drop-off times and late collection to reflect modern work practices and commute times, and will be based on best practice education, play and early learning. The costs to parents will be moderate, set at the EU average level of childcare costs – Irish parents are currently paying three times the EU average. 

Labour will introduce new safeguards to protect young people from abuse and discrimination, including online. Labour will enact its Harassment and Harmful Communications Bill, to update the law to include harassment and bullying on the Internet, mobile phones and social media.

Labour will maintain a zero-tolerance stance on racism and xenophobia. All of our candidates and elected representatives will uphold the highest standards of respect for diversity and active anti-discrimination including in particular anti-racism.

Labour will introduce a New Irish policy to formally recognise that being a member of Irish society is not about parentage or citizenship but about being born here or choosing to make a long-term commitment to life in Ireland.

Labour will restore the right to citizenship to children raised in Ireland whose primary affiliation is to Ireland. At present, many children brought up in Ireland do not have an automatic right to citizenship because their parents are not Irish, even though they have never known another home. This can cause serious problem for them after school, such as an inability to go to college, to work or to travel. This legal change can be made under the existing provisions in the Constitution brought in by the 27th Amendment, which remove automatic citizenship for everyone born in Ireland.

Pension Age

Labour will maintain the State Pension age at 66, as older workers and the economy are not yet ready for working longer lives. Many of those now reaching the age of 66 have already made 45 years of social insurance contributions, and many are affected by mandatory retirement at the age of 65. We are living longer, and we do need to prepare for longer working lives, but we have a sufficient surplus in the National Insurance Fund that we can afford to delay the move to the retirement age to 67. 

The pension age increase was agreed by the Fianna Fáil-Green government with the Troika, and passed into law in 2011 when the country was nearly bankrupt. The increase to 67 has not happened yet, and can be stopped now as the country is in a different place than 2011 with more people at work and the Social Insurance Fund is in substantial surplus.

It is simply unacceptable that people would be expected to sign for unemployment when they should be retired and Labour is committed to stop that happening.

At our conference in November, the Labour Party was the first to call for rise in pension age (to 67 in 2021) to be halted. You can watch the video here.

Renters Need a Break

Ireland has had the highest rent increases in the EU since 2015, with rents having risen over 25% in that time. The average rent in some parts of Dublin is over €2,224, an all-time high.

Many people can’t afford to rent close to where they work, and end up commuting long distances. This is unsustainable and is destroying quality of life. Reliance on the private housing market has failed. Rents are unaffordable and homelessness is at record highs, including nearly 4,000 children. Many adult children are stuck living with their parents due to the impossibility of meeting the cost of rent.

Freeze Rents

Labour will freeze rents until enough homes are built, to immediately alleviate the housing crisis. Labour froze rents in 2015 for two years, and it can be done again to give people certainty and to allow time for more homes to be built.

Cap Rents

As well as freezing rents, Labour will introduce a system of rent caps. At the moment, rents are permitted to go up 4% every year, but wages are not increasing at anything like that rate. We will regulate short-term letting and enforce this, in order to free up more homes that should not be being used as hotels.

Secure Long-Term Tenancies

Labour believes that secure, long-term renting should be a viable option so that people have security and can make a place into their long-term home. Labour will bring in long-term leases for renters, with rent certainty, and we’ll stop unfair evictions. To achieve this, we will strengthen the powers of the Rental Tenancies Board and increase its staff so that it has the capacity to fulfil its mandate.

Deposit Protection Scheme

Labour will ban the practice of landlords asking for more than one month’s rent as a deposit and implement a deposit protection scheme.

NCT For Rental Properties

Labour will introduce an NCT-style inspection of rental premises that issues Minimum Standards Certificates so tenants know the places they’re viewing meet standards on fire safety, and oblige local authorities to publish annual statistics into inspections of private rental accommodation to ensure regulations are correctly and effectively enforced.

Make Rent Count

Some renters are paying over €500 more than they would for a mortgage. Labour will ensure that rental payments and deposit savings are counted as part of credit ratings, to help first-time buyers.

Help For Renters Who Want to Buy

Labour will re-introduce a Rent to Buy scheme through our affordable housing plan where a person with a tenancy for three years that successfully pays all their rent would see it turned into a deposit for the property that they will then go on to own.

Peter Casey’s Message of Division Is Not Welcome in Dublin West

Like any other citizen Peter Casey has every right to put his name on the Dublin West ballot paper. Nonetheless many citizens will be uneasy at his sudden intervention in the constituency.

Dublin West is one of Ireland’s most diverse and inclusive communities, in part because it is the location for so many major international companies.

Inclusive societies thrive on their openness and diversity and Dublin West is no exception.

Local workplaces, schools, social and sporting clubs go to immense efforts to create a caring and friendly environment for families from many nations who have settled here.

These efforts have borne fruit and it would be a shocking thing if a Dáil candidate notorious for creating division should use the occasion of this election to sow seeds of disharmony for purely political purposes.

If that is his intention then I respectfully suggest that he think twice and turn back his cavalcade on the N3 and leave Dublin West communities to continue with their work in making the area a welcoming place to live, study and find employment.

Transfer of Rotunda Hospital

Today I met with the Master of the Rotunda Hospital, which is one of the oldest maternity hospital in Europe.

The future plan for the Rotunda Hospital is that it should move to the campus and grounds of Connolly Hospital, Blanchardstown. However to achieve this, Government needs to get its act together now and bring forward all of the detailed planning structures to provide for the move and to provide funding for the move.

At the moment, services at the Rotunda Hospital are seriously overcrowded. I support the proposal by the Hospital, that in the interim before the move, an intensive upgrade of the Intensive Care Unit is badly needed. This is so important to the health and lives of mothers and babies.

Taxation Debate

I appeared on ‘The Last Word with Matt Cooper’ for an Election debate on “Will We See Any Reduction in Our Taxes“. You can listen back to this debate here and below.

The Last Word with Matt Cooper

Labour On Taxation…

Now is not the time to cut taxes, with nearly 4,000 children in homelessness and hundreds of thousands waiting for medical tests and treatments. Using taxation to pay for public services can and should deliver better value for money than each of us buying services individually in a for-profit market, which excludes so many people. Labour will maintain the tax base, while delivering better outcomes.

Labour will not raise taxes on ordinary workers’ incomes and will widen Income Tax bands to prevent inflation eroding incomesLabour will not raise USC. We will progressively withdraw Income Tax credits on high earners with incomes over €100,000.

Labour will introduce a minimum effective rate of Corporation Tax of 12.5%, which will be 10% for companies that locate to disadvantaged regions of the country. We will conduct a major review of the sustainability of Ireland’s Corporation Tax base.

Labour will establish a Standing Commission on Taxation to conduct ongoing review of the tax system and of all tax breaks. This Commission will have the mandate to ensure the sustainability of Ireland’s tax revenue, and the fair distribution of all forms of taxation across the population. We will increase the penalties for tax evasion, and increase resources for the Revenue Commissioners to robustly pursue tax evasion.

Labour will adjust motor vehicle taxes to promote the uptake of low-emission vehicles and introduce stricter environmental criteria for company cars on our roads.

Labour & Women

It has been over 100 years since women got the vote, and this morning I left the office of the Returning Officers having been duly nominated as a candidate to contest the election for the 33rd Dáil, on Saturday 8th February. I am looking forward to lots of women contesting the election, and lots of women being in the next Dail.

Labour’s Plans for Women at Work

The Labour Party is dedicated to tackling gender inequality in the workplace. There are a number of issues impacting women such as the Gender Pay Gap, the childcare crisis and a lack of employment flexibility. But we know there are concrete steps which can be taken to reduce gender inequality and ensure more opportunities for women at work.

Currently Irish women earn around 14% less then men, meaning women working full-time essentially stop getting paid at around 4 o’clock everyday. Labour has put forward legislation to tackle to gender pay gap, which we ensured got through the Seanad and passed at Second Stage in the Dáil. But the Government has stalled any further progress and its own gender pay gap bill remains stagnant, with no move to bring it forward since May 2019. This represents a real failure to ensure equality for women in the workplace.

The Labour Party is committed to delivering gender pay gap law within our first 100 days if elected to office. Ireland’s gender pay gap must be tackled.

We’ll Build Homes

Labour will immediately freeze and cap rents until enough homes are built. And we will build 80,000 homes on public land in the next five years.

The private housing market has failed. Fine Gael wastes €700 million every year on private landlords, instead of building houses. Tax reliefs incentivise student residences, hotels and “co-living” units for professionals. And vulture funds have bought up entire housing estates to be rented out. Labour will change the tax system so that investors’ greatest incentive is to build more affordable homes.

Labour will bring in stronger rent controls. Labour froze rents in the past for 2 years and we can do it again, to give people certainty and to allow time for more homes to be built.

Labour believes that secure, long-term renting should be a viable option so that people have security and can make a place into their long-term home. We bring in long-term leases for renters, with rent certainty, and we’ll stop unfair evictions.

Labour will set up a €16 billion homebuilding fund. This will include €5 billion from the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund, €4 billion from the Rainy Day Fund, some of the NAMA surplus of €4 billion, funding from the European Investment Bank and investment from some of the credit union movement’s €14 billion in savings.

We will combine expertise from existing agencies into a single National Housing Development Agency, as a non-profit public developer. 

We will set up regional Housing Executive agencies within local government, to pool expertise and key personnel and to restore councils’ capacity to build homes.

No. 1 Vote

I am asking for your No. 1 vote on voting day, Saturday 8th February.

It has been my honour to represent the wonderfully diverse area that is Dublin West. An area with people who grew up here and whose grandparents grew up here, and with people from right across the world, who have come together to build a happy, diverse and prosperous community. These are the things I have sought as a public representative, and that is why I am seeking another term.

If you honour me with your vote, and your highest possible preference, I will promise to work as hard as I can to ensure we get the schools – primary and secondary – and the creches, and the public transport that we need, and an environmental plan that will retrofit older houses which can be cold and damp and need to be retrofitted. We also need more train connection to Maynooth and the city centre, we need more buses and we need proper public transport.

If you elect me as your TD, I undertake to work hard on all these issues, as I have done during my previous terms in the Dáil.

Equality in Healthcare

Waiting times are worse than ever and hospitals are overcrowded. I am committed to a single health system that works for everyone, where everyone gets equally good quality medical treatment. The roadmap should be the agreed all-party SláinteCare Report. But Government hasn’t made any serious headway in delivering a changed system.

We all want a world-class National Children’s Hospital, but why must it be the world’s most expensive hospital ever built? The Government has overspent massively, ignored advice from the IMF, and failed miserably to monitor rising costs.

Labour will end the de facto HSE recruitment embargo and the over-reliance on agency staff. The Government is spending over €320 million every year on health agency staff, which costs up to 20% more than directly employed staff. We can get better value for money by lifting the embargo, reducing over-reliance on temporary workers and recruiting permanent professionals.

We need to implement an investment plan to deliver more hospital beds and staff, to end the crisis of overcrowding and waiting lists.

Labour will redirect funding to more local primary care centres closer to communities, which will provide medical tests, disability supports, mental health services and help people to manage long-term disease like diabetes. Having more staff in primary care centres will mean fewer people travelling to hospitals. That will reduce overcrowding and waiting times. And the primary care setting will provide administrative support, better equipment and other incentives to make the career of GP more attractive and to improve retention levels, including in rural Ireland.

Labour will reduce the pressure on hospitals by increased funding for home help and respite care, so that more people can be cared for in their own homes. We will also increase the number of step-down beds, and allow people to transition from acute hospital settings back to their own home.