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Tuesday 6 December 2016

Don't bet on early election, says Joan Burton as childcare plans unveiled

Two year old Abbey Boxshall from Lucan watches Tanaiste Joan Burton holding 3 month old Indie Rose Lyons from Malahide the launch of the Labour Party Women's ' Lets Talk about Childcare' Report in the Merrion Hotel
Two year old Abbey Boxshall from Lucan watches Tanaiste Joan Burton holding 3 month old Indie Rose Lyons from Malahide the launch of the Labour Party Women's ' Lets Talk about Childcare' Report in the Merrion Hotel

Tanaiste Joan Burton has warned voters: "Don't bet on an early election."

Ms Burton has moved to clarify the nature of a private conversation she had with Taoiseach Enda Kenny yesterday, in which she argued against going early to the country.

"Well, I wouldn't bet on it. I don't know if you have been down to the bookies, but I wouldn't bet on it," she said.

Ms Burton denied Mr Kenny had given her any guarantee or assurance on anything to do with the election, but she set out clearly why she wants to wait until next spring.

At a party event in Dublin's Merrion Hotel, Ms Burton said the Labour Party wanted to see the Banking Inquiry finish its work in January and would not countenance going before it ended. Sources say that she came away from the meeting satisfied that her Fine Gael colleagues would stick to an agreement that the Government would run its full course.

Tanaiste Joan Burton pictured with 3 month old Indie Rose Lyons from Malahide and her Mum Mel at the launch of the Labour Party Women's ' Lets Talk about Childcare' Report in the Merrion Hotel
Tanaiste Joan Burton pictured with 3 month old Indie Rose Lyons from Malahide and her Mum Mel at the launch of the Labour Party Women's ' Lets Talk about Childcare' Report in the Merrion Hotel

"The view is widely unchanged from what it has always been. We want to finish the Programme for Government and the Taoiseach agrees," said a source.

Desperate

The Labour Party is desperate for the election to be delayed as long as possible in the hope that its poll rating, currently at 8pc, will rise. Officials feel it needs to reach double figures to avoid an Election Day wipe-out.

A Labour Party source, who spoke to Ms Burton yesterday about the meeting with Mr Kenny, said she appeared "confident" that the election would be in the spring.

The source said they were told by Ms Burton that Mr Kenny assured her the speculation was to "satisfy the media's obsession with an early poll".

"Joan said Kenny assured her he has allowed the November speculation to continue because the media appeared obsessed with it," the source added.

READ MORE: Siptu rejects move to cut historic link with Labour

Meanwhile, the speculation surrounding the election came as Labour stole a march on Fine Gael by launching a childcare strategy five days before the Budget. The policy, entitled 'Let's Talk about Childcare', makes six core recommendations which will feed into next week's Budget, as well as the party's election manifesto.

It includes:

l Introduction of paid paternity leave

l Introduction of paid parental leave

l An extension of the free pre-school year

l Increase in child benefit

l Making childcare more affordable for parents

l Professionalising the childcare workforce

The policy, which TDs are describing as 'child-centric', aims to bridge the gap between the cost of childcare in urban and rural areas. Fine Gael sources have said they concur with several aspects of the policy, which was produced by a Labour working group.

But, as revealed yesterday, party sources were surprised at Ms Burton's decision to release the document so close to the Budget, given that the overall childcare strategy is led by Children's Minister James Reilly.

In relation to paid paternity leave, Labour said such a move would finally recognise the role fathers play in the upbringing of their children.

"The introduction of paid paternity leave would herald the beginning of this cultural change which recognises the role of both parents in rearing a child," the document adds.

Precious

Parental leave also forms a major plank of the Labour policy. The party says the policy would encourage more dads to take time off work and would come into operation once the 26 weeks of maternity leave expires.

"Ideally, this parental leave would be operated on a 'use it, or lose it' basis, thus encouraging more fathers to avail of this leave and this precious time with their young children."

The policy was released partially in response to a major discrepancy between the costs of childcare in Dublin and rural parts of Ireland.

"In light of this, the working group is calling on the Labour Party Manifesto committee to investigate measures designed to support parents to balance work and family, by ensuring an even standard of care across all providers along with even costs to all parents," the report states.

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