The University Observer has invited all of the student political societies to write about why students should vote for their parties. Up first are the Social Democrats, written by Bevin Armstrong, from UCD Labour
Upon hearing the date was set for the General Election, there was a buzz and a slight
annoyance at the prospect of a winter election. Canvassing in the bitter cold is not ideal.
However, the Labour Party put on their gloves and began campaigns all across the country
in order to provide the best solutions to the problems that Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil have
left for students and wider society. In this election, the Labour Party has 5 areas of focus that
concern students, which the party refuses to compromise on. These are the provision of
social and affordable housing, improving the health service, guaranteeing job security and
better pay for workers, establishing a public childcare scheme and investing in climate action
to build a sustainable future.
Fine Gael’s over-reliance on the free market with regards to the provision of housing has
proved inadequate to solve the homelessness crisis. Labour is in favour of using publically
owned land to build 80,000 housing units within a five year period by investing 16 billion euro
as a priority to end the homelessness crisis alleviating the 99,000 households on the
housing list. Achieving this target will be the responsibility of a new state agency called the
National Housing Development Bank, which will replace the Housing Agency and the
Housing Finance Agency and take resources and staff from NAMA. There will be robust
plans put in place to address the housing needs of the Traveller Community, students,
victims of domestic violence, people with disabilities and older people as well as ensuring
Housing Quality Standards are legislated for. Through referendum, the party plans to
enshrine socio-economic rights including the right to affordable housing into the Constitution.
Support for rent freezes and rent caps will ensure that rent cannot continue to rise, and can
be reduced for students in UCD and all across the country. It also helps students who
currently cannot see themselves moving out of their family home due to extortionate rents
that are just unaffordable for the majority, especially young people.
Labour are shocked and appalled at the trolley crisis, the disregard shown for women’s
health by the current government, the lack of funding for home help and respite care and the
cost of GPs. The party pledges they will invest in more hospital beds, end the recruitment
embargo, stop the reliance on agency staff and fund mental health services which makes a
career in the HSE more accessible for graduates. Labour commits to ensuring more funding
for respite care, training more GPs and the expansion of free-of-charge GP care to all
children under 18, the improvement in respite care and expansion of free GP services will
help those students who are balancing care duties of older people and children who cannot
afford GP/respite care on top of full time/part time education. Labour will also heavily invest
in mental health services for young people.
Better Pay and Job Security
With an ever changing working environment, many students are on zero hour contracts,
minimum wage, or cash in hand unsecured jobs. Labour will increase the minimum wage to
a Living Wage based on the real cost of living, reduce the wage gap between the executive
high earners and the average worker as well as ultimately eliminate the gender pay gap.
Additionally, Labour will assert EU legislation as the foundation to build better protections, and strengthen the powers of the Low Pay Commission to investigate working conditions. It
will also guarantee the right of every worker to trade union representation by enshrining it in
Labour policies will improve life for students balancing full time/part time education and
parenting. Labour will make primary education genuinely free (no “voluntary contributions”)
and give every child free school books and healthy school meals. Labour will also establish a
public Childcare Scheme that will eliminate the burden of paying for private childcare on
students who are also working parents.
Unlike the government party and it’s “opposition” Fianna Fáil, Labour will listen to the
thousands of students who have mobilised for climate justice. Labour will take the
emergency seriously by implementing a nationwide ban on smoky coal, investing in public
transport services, cycling infrastructure and by targeting electric vehicle grants to the people
who need them. Labour will also invest in the ESB, Collite and Bord na Mona to create
sustainable jobs in clean energy, recycling and land management for graduates
Ultimately, “the cause of labour is the cause of Ireland, and the cause of Ireland is the cause
of labour”. Students and young people are the future of Ireland and Labour has the best
interests of students in mind, ensuring we can afford accommodation, have a health system
that works for us, afford childcare to balance education and parenting, ensure job security
and higher pay as well as taking action on the climate crisis. Find your local candidate and
view full policy documents on www.labour.ie .