The Labour Party leader has ruled out going into government with Sinn Féin.
Brendan Howlin said he has concerns that Sinn Féin is still under the influence of the old leadership of the IRA.
On the Pat Kenny Show this morning, he said the party has some “good ideas” that match many of Labour's goals – but said he believes the sway of the IRA can be heard in the party leaders' speeches.
“We are in sympathy with a lot of what they want to achieve,” he said.
“My problem with Sinn Féin as a part of government is, who runs Sinn Féin?
“I am not confident that the leadership of Sinn Féin is actually what we see. I think what used to be the old leadership of the IRA still exists in some shape or form and I think they have influence over Sinn Féin and I think that would be a problem in Government.”
He said Labour could work with Sinn Féin outside of Government; however, concerns over the leadership would make a coalition impossible.
“On occasions when they make speeches, they have to make a nod to the past and they have to say things that are, I think, discordant with themselves,” he said.
“I would be fearful of how that would play out. I think that would cause problems for the creation and maintenance of a stable Government and I think that is important.
“I think we can work with Sinn Fein and we have done on a number of policy platforms. I think they have very good ideas in a number of areas that would mirror our ideas.”
Deputy Howlin said claims that Labour sold out its base when it joined the Government in 2011 are like “the fire brigade for putting out the fire.”
He warned that when the party entered power, the state was bringing in a third less than it was committed to spending.
“We wanted to stop the destruction of our economy and our country,” he said.
“We didn’t want to go down the way of Greece where public services collapsed and people were literally on the streets.
“A lot of people were hurt but we now are in a position, because of hard decisions made by the Irish people, to envision what a real equal society could look like.”
To build an equal society, Labour wants the following:
-A real living wage for workers💶
-Radical change to housing policy🏡
-A just transition to a low carbon economy🌿
-An end to health inequality👩⚕️
-Every child to have a fair start in life👶👧 pic.twitter.com/eJJ4geHOO6
— The Labour Party (@labour) September 8, 2019
He said the decision to enter Government at that time had “seared” the party in the eyes of many its supporters but insisted he would not shy away from entering Government again.
“We are not a debating society,” he said. “We want to make a difference in people's lives. “We can only make a difference if we have leverage of power.”
Deputy Howling said Labour has set out five “absolute guidelines and redlines” that any party must engage on if they wish to talk to Labour about the formation of Government.
“Solving the housing crisis by building 80,000 social and affordable houses on the land we kept in public ownership over five years,” he said.
“We have set out how to implement the Sláintecare plan,” he said. “We have started rolling out an alternative to the acute hospital system with services across the country. We need to invest in free GP care for all.”
“A real issue. It is the defining issue of our time,” he said. “We have said we want to use the public service, the public companies like Born na Móna, like Coillte, to drive a climate change strategy including the retrofitting of 100,000 houses.”
“The provision of decent childcare for all,” he said.
“Our traditional issue of work. We are the party of work and we want to protect work,” he said.
“Give people the right to collective bargaining. The right to be represented by trade union officials in their place of work. That is the defining issue between having a decent standard of living, a decent rate of pay and not.”
The 2020 General election will take place on Saturday, February 8th.
You can listen back to Deputy Howlin's interview with Pat Kenny here:
— Pat Kenny Newstalk (@PatKennyNT) January 15, 2020