Every Little Hurts

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burton:jennings

From top: Labour party ad ahead of the 2011 General Election; Joan Burton and Gavin Jennings this morning

Tánaiste and Labour party leader Joan Burton spoke with Gavin Jennings on Morning Ireland earlier  about the future of her party ahead of the next general election.

Mr Jennings asked Ms Burton about Labour ads released prior to the last general election in 2011 – warning people what would happen should Fine Gael be elected – and what benefit cuts Ms Burton intended to reverse, if any.

The interview took place at Labour’s think-in in Wicklow.

Gavin Jennings: “Your party has agreed at this gathering to a vote transfer pact with Fine Gael. Is it a vote for Labour or a vote for Fine Gael?”

Joan Burton: “No it’s a vote for Labour because, above all else, we’ll be going to the doorsteps asking people to vote number one for the Labour candidate and number one and two in the constituencies where we’re running two candidates. After that, because we need to focus on who’s going to form a Government after the next election and what I’m concerned and the reason I made the intervention, Gavin, is that we have a very dissonant, discordant opposition who seem to detest each other as much as they dislike the Government. So the question: we are on the cusp of an opportunity to really build the Irish economy, get people back to work and spread the benefits throughout everybody in the country but we can’t do that without a Government. And electors now have to begin thinking about what kind of Government they would like to see after the election. This Government has worked well, we’ve taken on a difficult job, we’ve done our best and we’ve now got the country into a recovery place so I think there’s a lot of sense in saying, after you’ve voted number one for Labour or number two for Labour, then vote for our partners in Government.”

Jennings: “You want voters to reelect a Fine Gael-Labour government. In the last week, before the last election, warning voters not to let Fine Gael govern on their own and asking them to vote you in, your party issued a poster: Every Little Hurts. Just a reminder, warning of a €50 hike in car tax, an increase in VAT to 23%, a 1% increase in duty on wine, a €250 cut to annual child benefit for a family with two children, a 3% hike in DIRT to 30% and a water tax of €238 a year. Which of those did you prevent?

Burton: “Well, what we did was, and we said this in our manifesto and I said it particularly, as the Labour party’s finance spokesperson, that I wanted to get the country back into recovery mode, get people and businesses back to work and that is what we’ve done…”

Jennings: “Which of those cuts did you prevent?”

Burton: “…That was our primary promise. Well, can I just say in relation to social protection, for instance, we’ve protected all of the weekly rates. In relation to work, we’ve created 110,000 extra jobs; we now have a situation where there’s 9.5% unemployment – down from over 15%. We prioritised, when we went in to work, rescuing the country, and it was a very, very…”

Jennings: “And you’ve made that point. Of those six threats which of them did you prevent?

Burton: “Well what we’ve done now is we’ve put the country in recovery mode and looking to this Budget, we will actually be addressing the Budget and the fiscal space that is there for families with children, for older people, particularly people in retirement. And for people who are vulnerable and who need support.”

Jennings: “The only one of those threats that didn’t come to pass was the €238-a-year water tax but only because of the offer of a €100 grant which hasn’t yet been paid. Are you still going to pay €100 to people who don’t pay for their water?”

Burton: “The forms in relation, and the letters in relation to the water conservation grant are going out, as I speak. And, I have to say, going around the country and talking to people, particularly people who are retired, it means that if somebody is living in a house on their own, their net charge for water will be a fairly modest €60 a year and for a family of two adults or more, it’ll be €160 a year.”

Jennings:Are you still going to pay €100 to people who don’t pay for their water?

Burton: “Well I’m very confident that the vast majority of Irish people are very honest and they deal very honestly with Government and my understanding and my anticipation is, just again, based on conversations with people, that people who have registered with Irish Water, the vast bulk of them, as we’ve seen already intend to pay the charge.”

Jennings: “51% have paid so far.”

Burton: “And for a new utility, which has just been established on a countrywide basis, that actually is exactly where…”

Jennings: “Can I ask you again: are you still going to pay €100 to people who don’t pay for their water?

Burton: “Let me be clear about that one: we’re going to pay the €100, Gavin, to people who have registered for Irish Water…”

Jennings:Even though they haven’t paid for their water?”

Burton: “I anticipate, because people are very, very honest, I anticipate that those people who take the conservation grant will address their responsibilities. Remember as recently as last week, we had the Boylan, we had the Boylan Report in the EU from the leading Sinn Féin person…”

Jennings: “I’m just trying to get an answer to the question, Tánaiste, you are going to continue paying €100 to people who don’t pay for their water?

Burton: “The condition on which the grant is paid is based on whether or not the person has registered…”

Jennings: “Not whether they’ve paid.”

Burton: “I anticipate that people who’ve registered and who actually look for the grant, will pay. But remember Sinn Féin, in the European Parliament report, by their leading MEP, spoke as recently as last week about a progressive water charge linked to usage. So can we just have a little bit of honesty from some of the parties who are pirouetting at a crazy rate in relation to policies.”

Jennings: “If you could just stick with the questions we’re putting to you, if that’s OK for the moment…Lots of talk by you and others in the Government over the past few days about relief and payback in the upcoming Budget and indeed in the upcoming term of Government that you hope to be reelected to. What benefit cuts, during you term as minister or in the nine austerity Budgets we’ve endured, are you going to reverse?

Burton: “Well, first of all, the greatest boost to anybody’s prosperity in this country is for someone who’s unemployed to get work and, as I’ve said to you, and I don’t know if RTE finds this difficult  but we now have 110,000 extra jobs and we’ve got unemployment down from 15% to 9.5%. Just to clear that that boost of employment is the greatest boost to people’s prosperity.”

Jennings:What benefit cuts are you going to reverse?

Burton: “What I’m looking forward to in this Budget, what I’m looking forward to in this Budget is focussing, as I did last year, on a number of particular areas: families with children. So I anticipate, subject to the finalisation of the figures, I anticipate we’ll be in a position to improve child benefit and also to have a better childcare package because that’s a very big issue for families with young children.”

Jennings: “It’s not a full reversal of the child’s benefit cut is it?”

Burton: “Secondly…”

Jennings: “Is it?”

Burton: “There’s no figures which have been decided yet, Gavin..”

Jennings: “What about the back-to-school allowance?”

Burton: “We..”

Jennings:Will you reverse the cut to the back-to-school allowance?”

Burton:No because we, what I want to do there is to support all families with children through child benefit and to look at targeted measures – none of which of yet have been signed off on..”

Jennings: “With respect, a child benefit increase to every child, to every family in the country is not a targeted increase. What benefit cuts, I’ll ask you again, are you going to reverse?”

Burton: “I think, Gavin,  can I just say to you, I think that’s quite an extraordinary statement by RTE, that child benefit doesn’t benefit families with children. I don’t know what, I don’t know what world RTE inhabits, perhaps in Dublin 4 but I can tell you, right across this country, in town and country, in village and city,  families with children look forward to more support. People who are retiring look forward to more support. One of the things I did last year was to reintroduce at a 25% was the Christmas bonus. I hope to be in a position to at least double that this year, we also provided additional money for people living alone who are older or who have a disability. That was the first increase in that since 1993.”

Jennings: “The respite care grant, disability payments for young people, one-parent family payments, rent supplement, funeral allowance, are you going to reverse any of those?”

Burton: “Well I told you that, last year, Gavin, anybody who’s living alone, either retired or on a disability payment, we increased for the first time in decades – the Living Alone Allowance which was worth a small but important amount to people who are on a disability payment and living alone and similarly for older people living alone. I speak every year and during the year to organisations who represent people who rely on a social welfare income and I’ve based what I’m doing in the Budget on the amount of money that we can afford sensibly and prudently spend and secondly on the recommendations of those organisations.”

Jennings: “And last year when I put that question to you about reversal of social welfare cuts that have been made during the nine austerity budgets, you said, ‘we’re not in a position to do that yet’. This year there is more money, this isn’t an austerity Budget.”

Burton: “And the targets will be families with children and people who have retired and people, for instance, who have a disability and people who are caring and a very significant package of investment into getting people back to work, into apprenticeships, into training, into third-level places and to building primary and secondary schools and getting more teachers into a school. It’s a whole-of-life package – that’s what the Budget will be – about improving the living standards as far as possible of everybody in the country. That’s what the approach to the Budget is. And if you’re suggesting to me that we would simply look back to the period of the greatest difficulty in the country’s history and not look forward to how we can grow this country, how we can get more investment into this country, how we can get more people back to work, well I think the focus for this country needs to be on the future and how we make things better for everybody and I have to say, that is what I did last year, that’s what I said when I spoke with you. What I was going to focus on and that’s what I’m going to focus on this year again.”

Jennings: “You, of the main party leaders that we’ve spoken to in the last number of days, this will be your first general election as leader. The others had all faced it last time around. How’s the party better off under your leadership than Eamon Gilmore?”

Burton: “Well first of all we’ve had a number of very successful changes in Budgetary policy. We focussed last year, for instance, on removing and lowering the USC, removing and extra 40,000 people out of the USC net and, this year in the Budget, we will be reducing the USC further, that will be a very big boost, particularly to people on low incomes, in work, and to families and others on middle incomes, people in the range of €25,000 to €70,000 a year – that will be a very big boost to them.”

Jennings: “Do you think that your party will fare better under your leadership in this General Election?”

Burton: “I feel very confident in terms of the response that I’m getting from people that Labour’s plan which is to grow this country and to grow and have a renewal, to have a recovery and to have that on a social basis, a cultural basis and to have it spread right throughout the country, I think that’s what people are interested in. This country has a great future and, actually, I think, in all fairness to you, you should be talking the country up, not actually trying to talk the country down. People have sacrificed a lot, they faced difficult days and now we actually stand on the…we stand to actually improve life for everybody in this country, it’s an opportunity we should take with both hands as we look to the future.”

Listen back in full here

20 thoughts on “Every Little Hurts

  1. bisted

    …you left out the best bit at the end where she lapsed into fluent Bertie and told Gavin Jennings that he should be talking up the economy…surprised she didn’t invoke the suicide clause…

  2. ahjayzis

    I can’t listen to this woman anymore.

    I was her biggest fan in opposition, mainly because I thought she was a straight talker and now I feel like a total idiot because I basically fell for the female Bertie. I have the same visceral “Do you think I’m that stupid?” reaction when she clumsily avoids the question by attacking the interviewer or talking about a party other than the one she leads.

    There’s nothing going on inside, she’s arrogant, supercilious, never answers a straight question, constantly deflecting. I can’t stand her.

    At least Enda has an excuse, he’s an idiot minding his daddy’s seat, rising without trace after 30 years of anonymity and handshaking on the backbenchers – he’s a wasted mind as a result of a wasted life, Burton’s worse, she has talent, she just chooses to administer rather than lead, striving towards that pension.

    1. Christopher

      Yep, all of the above is spot on. Seeing her and Alan Kelly side by side at their think in on the news was just galling. Labour used to stand for something- now they stand for absolutely nothing at all except easing the guilt of people who want a conservative government but couldn’t bear the thought of voting for FG/FG. Its telling that all of their socialists have left so there is no Jeremy Corbyn left to wrestle power away from these people.

    2. pixel_pimp

      I was going to write something long those lines but you have said it all. Whatever about Enda being a liability to FG, (and he is, thankfully) Joan is the toxic peak of the Labour iceberg.

  3. RobinBoy

    Did anyone else read her parts with the Mario Rosenstock “Joan” voice.

    She could be Neo with the way she dodges those bullets.

  4. pissedasanewt

    I like that poster, i think every party should have one. Sinn Fein’s would be, abolish water tax, increase social welfare, increase child allowance, increase spending on everything and this would be paid for by taxing the rich. Then they would have to roll back on all those promises once in Gov because the rich would go bugger off to a different country, because they are rich and only here for the tax breaks. Queue an early election because they are in gov with 40 independents and we’d elect Finna Fail because we haven’t voted for them in a while and they are promising to abolish water tax, increase social welfare blah blah blah etc etc etc…

    1. Conn

      At least give someone else a chance to break their promises instead of just assuming that’s what everyone does just because that’s all we’ve ever known here

  5. fmong

    “Burton: “I think, Gavin, can I just say to you, I think that’s quite an extraordinary statement by RTE, that child benefit doesn’t benefit families with children. I don’t know what, I don’t know what world RTE inhabits, perhaps in Dublin 4 ”

    Classic Irish Govt media training.. if the interview makes any sort of definitive statement start painting it as a controversial statement by RTE… implication “remember buster, we own RTE, we can ruin your career if we want” ..I wonder if Terry ‘Wife of the ex-head of RTE’ Prone came up with that move?

    1. Pip

      And more fool Gavin Jennings for not querying the point of paying child benefit to the well off. He merely ignored his own point about ‘targeted’, box ticked…..

  6. Ultravox

    “I don’t know what world RTE inhabits, perhaps in Dublin 4” – Just like Ruairi Quinn? But, you should know Burton. RTE is riddled with Labour Luvvies – why not ask them?

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