Harte, McBrearty local champions
for Donegal - Labour deputy leader
by Michelle Nic Phaidin
The deputy leader of the Labour party has said the two Donegal candidates, Frank McBrearty and Jimmy Harte, will poll exceptionally better in the upcoming by-election.
Ahead of the recent by-election polls indicated that McBrearty could take anything up to 19 per cent. However, McBrearty polled a disappointing 3,366 votes, around 10 per cent, and crashed out after the second count. It is understood that the majority of those votes seem to have gone directly to Sinn Fin's Pearse Doherty, who, with 13,719 first preference votes had a commanding lead from the outset.
Joan Burton, who is also the party's finance spokesperson, said that this time around she envisages McBrearty becoming a champion for DSW and performing a lot stronger than in the by-election.
"What I am hoping now is that Frank is going to do far, far better in the general election. He has a very impressive work rate. He is the great local champion of Donegal and of South West Donegal and I think that Donegal need Labour champions. Clearly Jimmy Harte is a great champion for the North East. I just think that Labour will make a breakthrough in Donegal," she said.
She denied any knowledge of the controversy which surrounded Labour approaching Thomas Pringle, stating that at that time she was being kept busy with the finance bill to have heard of it.
She acknowledged that fact that there was a huge amount of people unemployed in Donegal and that this would be a major issue during the election campaign. Recent unemployment figures have shown that the number on the live register in Donegal last month increased, in contrast to the national picture which featured a slight fall. There were 21,835 people on the Live Register in Donegal at the end of January, 123 up on December, and 362 up on the figure for January 2010.
"I know the unemployment statistics for Donegal where 21,000 are unemployed is very high," she said.
She added that decentralisation was an issue that would be "better structured" under a Labour government and that the challenge for a new government would be to have a better regional policy in place that would promote the original policy for decentralisation.
"We should also have a whole serious of programmes centred around graduate internships for apprentices which have finished their time," she said.
"We really do, particularly for young people, have to have really clear alternatives and pathways to just being on social welfare. I think it is particularly difficult in Donegal and it is often particularly difficult for young men who find themselves out of work for two or three years. Half the people that are now unemployed in the country are long termed unemployed in other words unemployed for almost two years," she added.
She conceded that a Fine Gael/Labour government would be the most likely outcome following the next General Election. She did however add that there were differences between the parties in relation to their fiscal policy.
"Some of the Fine Gael deputies were saying that the adjustment for 2011 could be €8 billion. Now the country is reeling from an adjustment of €6 billion in terms of all the extra taxes. One of the things that we have said to people is that we will not be putting extra income taxes on people or a family who earn under a hundred thousand euro a year. People have now lost so much in wage cuts and working hours. If you want someone to go and buy a few things down the road, dress up for St. Patrick's Day, buy clothes for summer they will not do that if they feel that there is another massive hit coming that we are simply not going to be able to pay," she said.
The former Dublin Institute lecturer of business and finance said the objective of the Labour party is to create employment to stimulate growth and get the national economy up and running again.
"The management of the economy the IMF deal is too tough for Ireland. We still have negotiating points. We met the IMF after they had done a deal with government they came and met us because they wanted to see what the opposition's take was on this. One of the people from EU institutions said to me "are you prepared as a country (more or less) to give up all that you have," and I said no, "I mean what we are prepared to do as a country is to start sorting it out and paying of debt. We are not, I am not, on behalf of the Labour party prepared to give up everything that we have," she said.
In her own opinion the country will have a more vibrant economy once a tough deal is brokered which allows for growth and employment."
She compared the Labour Party policy as being similar to that of Roosevelt during the great depression. "Our philosophy is more like Roosevelt in the great depression. When the Hoover administration thought the way out of austerity was to cut, cut, cut. Roosevelt thought no, even if it is only about getting people back to work filling holes in the road. Now, ironically that's where the origins of the IMF lie in, countries ruined after the war and the effort to get that country off the ground," she said.
According to the Dublin West candidate, Fianna Fil did not negotiate the IMF deal properly. "We are basically going to pay nearly 6 per cent on the loans that we should actually be able to borrow at three per cent."
Her views on the budget, the universal social charge and the Labour party vote of no confidence in the Finance Bill were all discussed on a recent broadcast of the Vincent Browne show. Discussions between the presenter and herself became heated at certain points making national media headlines during the following number of days.
Speaking in relation to the interview she said that while she had the utmost respect for the presenter she wished that she would have been allowed more time to answer the questions.
"Well, Vincent is Vincent and Joan is Joan. He is a great journalist and I respect him enormously and that is why I am one of the very few senior politicians that will go on his programme every couple of months. I just think that it is important that if somebody like him who likes to ask hard questions, which I think that he is entitled to do, I think that I would like to persuade him that he should give the person he asks more time to answer the questions."
She added that herself and Browne may have alternative views when it comes to social welfare and employment. "I was a bit upset when I was talking about unemployment he wanted to emphasise social welfare. Look, of course, good social welfare is important, but it is more important that somebody has a job and then they don't have to rely on social welfare. We might have a different bit of a point of view there."