Joan And The Vulnerable

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Labour leadership hopeful Joan Burton appeared on last night’s Saturday Night Show with Brendan O’Connor to set out her stall and attempt to explain Labour’s betrayal of “the most vulnerable in society”.

Joan Burton: “…Simply creating an economy without a society is not enough.”

Brendan O’Connor: “A year ago you spoke about the limits of austerity. I presume you didn’t have this epiphany in the last week?

Joan Burton: “No.”

O’Connor: “If you had acted on this earlier…”

Burton: “Well a government is a collaborative effort. and I think you have to keep putting your ideas forward because obviously in modern politics there’s probably two different views. If you sort of look after very wealthy people and their wealth grows well some of that will trickle down. My view has always been very strongly – and it’s a Labour view – that you build a strong, eh, you build a strong middle class, people at work, people who pay the taxes, pay the PRSI, that keeps the social welfare system going and that  you have to do that, there’s two different…One is building from the middle and the other is top down.”

O’Connor: “But I suppose the middle didn’t feel that ye were doing that. There were a lot of broken promises there and Joan really people felt terribly betrayed by you  because you said certain things and you made certain promises and that was all gone.”

Burton: “I think what a lot of people felt and said to me was a sense of disappointment and ‘not this time’ and certainly I think the Labour party going into the last election made promises that the economic situation just didn’t allow us to do.”

O’Connor: “But had you not looked into the economic situation before you made the promises not to be smart about it.”

Burton:“Well a couple of things happened. First of all we inherited….you know I was the biggest critic of the bank guarantee because I advised the Labour Party to vote against it which we did. But the reality is once a national government has made a decision turning that around to change that decision, get relief on the bank debt…we’ve got relief now amounting probably to some €30 billion in terms of putting it out long term and getting lower interest rates but we still need the same amount again. That’s the art I suppose  of government aswell as politics. You say this is my goal. Maybe it’s like building a team and if this is team Ireland it’s going to take time to get businesses and people back on their feet. And also as I say the social side, the social investment….”

O’Connor: “On the social side. There was this issue  that was bubbling away probably for a year. It came to a crescendo around the time of the election and it’s finally being dealt with now.  Why didn’t Labour spot the medical cards thing or do something about it? This should have been  a classic kind of Labour core value stuff. The most vulnerable people in our society. It’s an overused phrase but a lot of these people were. How come you let it go as far as you let it go?”

Burton: Well I think we got it wrong and for that I would like to apologise. The notion that anybody who had a long term serious illness like say Motor Neurone disease or parents of a child who had say Spina bifida or a Downs [syndrome]…”

O’Connor: “Did you not see it? Did you not see the all the stories in the papers for the last year? Did you think this was a peripheral issue?”

Burton: “Well remember we had the Troika on our backs for three years and happily they left. And then there started to be a bit of movement. Now I…the taoiseach has said tonight and I want to welcome what he said, that that [medical cards issue] is going to be sorted both in the review in terms of what is going to happen people in the future but also the people who lost the medical cards and obviously I know a lot of people personally who lost them and I have to say I couldn’t quite make out.”

O’Connor:
“And that’s going to be fixed now.”

Burton: “…I, I, I hope it’s going to be fixed. That’s what we’re going to do. We will be talking about it at cabinet on Tuesday. You know for instance in Social Protection there are things which have been very difficult. In this period it’s been hard on different ministers in all levels of the government. At the same time if you go around Ireland we’re building new schools and rebuilding old schools everywhere. So that’s a social success and it puts people back to work.”

Right so.

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