First elected to the Dáil in 2011, I previously served as a Councillor with Drogheda Borough Council and Louth County Council. In 2004 I was elected Mayor of Drogheda. Elected to the Seanad in 2016.
Party positions on the election issues:
These positions were provided by the party
Taxes and Spending
The government should prioritise putting money aside for future challenges (e.g. Brexit) rather than putting it back into the economy now
The government now takes in more money than it spends. Some argue that this should be set aside to prepare for shocks like Brexit or a sharp reduction in corporation tax revenue. Others argue that the priority should be putting money into the economy through higher public spending or tax cuts.
"Any Brexit is bad for the economy. It will decrease economic activity and cost jobs. By spending money to build homes and to fix health, the Government can put money into the economy while also solving the most pressing issues."
When there is scope for tax cuts or public spending increases, what should be done?
During the recession, new taxes were introduced and public spending was cut. Some argue that when possible, the government should cut taxes to put money back into people’s pockets. Others argue that the priority should be to increase public spending in areas such as housing and health.
Some tax cuts and some increases in spending on public services
Significant increase in spending on public services
"Sustainable increases in public spending are required to build homes and fix health. Done right these will save money, such as the €700 million going to private landlords annually or the €900,000 every day to pay agency healthcare staff."
Should taxes on lower earners (below €35,000) be increased or decreased?
Currently, people earning under €16,500 do not pay income tax. People earning over that pay the standard rate of 20%. There is also the Universal Social Charge: those earning under €13,000 are exempt, while those earning up to €20,000 pay up to 2%, rising to 4.5% for earnings over that amount.
"Now is not the time for tax cuts, with nearly 4,000 children homeless and hundreds of thousands of people waiting for health appointments. But income tax bands should widen to take account of wage inflation."
Should taxes on middle earners (€35,000-€70,000) be increased or decreased?
The standard rate of income tax is 20%, which applies to all income up €35,300 (for a single person); earnings above that are taxed at 40%. The Universal Social Charge is 4.5% on income between €20,000 and €70,000.
"Fewer than one in five people at work pay any tax at the 40% rate, as married couples can combine tax credits and bands. Now is not the time for tax cuts until we end long-term homelessness and fix health."
"Now is not the time for tax cuts, with nearly 4,000 children homeless and thousands of people waiting for health appointments. But income tax bands should widen so that inflation does not lead to tax increases. Those earning over €100,000 could pay a little more (by withdrawing their tax credits)."
Should corporation taxes be increased or decreased?
Ireland’s corporate tax rate is 12.5%, which is low by international standards. Many large companies pay a much lower rate in practice. This makes us attractive for multinationals, which are a major contributor to the economy; it has also led to accusations of Ireland being a tax haven.
"While the rate should remain at 12.5%, this should become an effective rate of tax without further tax breaks or discounts. Some discount should be given for companies investing in rural Ireland. The bank levy should also rise."
Should the local property tax rates be increased or decreased?
The standard rate of LPT is 0.18% of a property’s market value. This rate can be adjusted up or down by the local authority. The revenue raised is used to fund local services and some of it is redistributed to other local authorities. LPT currently makes up less than 1% of all tax revenue.
"The failure to update valuations means people could face a jump in LPT. To make annual payments broadly the same, a new rate of 0.13% would give local government broadly the same level of funds as 0.18% using old valuations."
A rent freeze should be introduced across the country
Currently, rent increases are limited to 4% in ‘rent pressure zones’. Some argue that there should be a blanket rent freeze, so landlords could not increase rents at all for a period. Others argue that a rent freeze would drive landlords out of the sector and reduce the supply of houses for rent.
Much more resources should be directed to building local authority housing, even if that means cutting back in other areas or raising taxes
Some argue that local authority house building should be increased dramatically, as there are almost 70,000 people on waiting lists. Others favour alternative methods of solving the housing crisis, such as encouraging more private development or providing more supports for people to rent or buy.
"We can build 80,000 homes on public land in five years, by investing €16 billion without raising taxes. This takes money from state reserves and other sources. It will reduce the €700 million a year going to private landlords."
The best solution to the housing crisis is to incentivise more building by private developers
To solve the housing crisis, some argue we need to incentivise developers to build more houses (e.g. by reducing taxes on construction or introducing harsher penalties for ‘land hording’). Others argue that the solution should instead focus on building more local authority housing.
"Reliance on private developers has failed. Many of them are building high-end student accommodation or “co-living” spaces, because tax incentives encourage that. It is time for the state to build homes again, like in nearly everywhere else in Europe."
There should be free health care for all, even those on higher incomes
Currently, only some people are entitled to a medical card or free GP care. Many people who can afford it choose to take out private health insurance. Some argue that there should be universal health care for most medical treatments, paid with public funds. Others say this would cost too much.
"Running public and private services in parallel is unfair and grossly inefficient. Ireland is the only EU country without a single healthcare system that treats everyone. By redirecting health spending, we can achieve a high quality health service for all."
What should the focus be for investment in transport?
Some say we need to reduce our dependence on cars, and invest in sustainable transport instead (e.g. buses, trains, cycling, walking). Others argue that failing to invest in our road network will damage the economy. Currently we spend more on roads than on public transport and cycleways.
Spread resources evenly between roads and public transport/cycle lanes
Cut spending on roads and invest significantly in public transport and cycle lanes
"We need a balanced approach: more investment for better public transport, 10%+ spent on cycling and walking infrastructure, but electric vehicle grants for people who are car dependent in rural Ireland or need a car due to disability. "
"Plans to have one million electric vehicles are wholly unrealistic. They are too expensive for most people and we will end up with the same traffic congestion. We can phase out polluting cars when the public transport is ready."
Carbon tax applies to fossil fuels, e.g. oil, petrol, diesel, gas. It recently increased from €20 to €26 per tonne of CO2. The Climate Change Advisory Council recommends a rapid increase (€80 per tonne by 2030). Critics say that carbon tax disproportionately impacts those on low incomes.
Increased significantly (reaching €80 per tonne by 2030)
Increased at a more moderate rate
"Carbon tax is needed to address the climate emergency quickly enough, but it must be ring-fenced to reduce fuel poverty, to fund public transport and for new, sustainable jobs. Opponents will just raise other taxes to fund necessary climate investments."
There should be a tax on greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture
Agriculture is a key sector in the Irish economy. It is also responsible for 33% of Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions. Some have called for a new tax on greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture, but opponents say that would be too damaging to the agri-food industry.
"Agriculture will pay carbon tax on fuel, but the main greenhouse gases from farming are methane and nitrous oxide. It is not tax but changed farming practices and changed consumer habits that will reduce those."
Should immigration into Ireland be made more restrictive or less restrictive?
Non-Irish nationals make up 12.7% of the population, most of whom came from the EU. Work permits are issued to people from other countries only with a well-paid job offer in certain occupations. Some say immigration puts pressure on services; while others say it is needed to tackle job shortages.
"Population growth, including from migration, leads to economic growth and more jobs. A larger economy provides more tax to provide more services, and most migrants are younger workers, so they pay more tax and use services less often."
More resources should be given to improving conditions for asylum seekers
Asylum seekers are housed in Direct Provision centres. Some argue that conditions are poor and have a negative effect on the physical and mental health of residents. Others disagree and argue that improving conditions would cost too much and could attract more asylum seekers to Ireland.
The liberalisation of abortion in Ireland has gone too far
The legislation introduced after the 2018 referendum allows for terminations for any reason up to 12 weeks in a pregnancy. Terminations are only permitted after this date (and before the foetus becomes viable) if there is a serious risk to the health of the pregnant woman.
"Labour long campaigned for women’s reproductive rights. The people voted convincingly in favour of allowing the Oireachtas to introduce legislation on the termination of pregnancy in a specified, and limited, range of circumstances that respect women’s health."
Small towns and villages should not be forced to accommodate asylum seekers
There are approximately 6,000 asylum seekers living in Ireland. Many are accommodated in or near small towns and villages, where it is easier to find private premises to use as Direct Provision centres. In some cases locals have opposed this on the grounds that their town might be overwhelmed.
"Accommodating asylum seekers does need to be handled sensitively and the Government should seek smaller sites and work more closely with approved housing bodies. There are many examples of small villages and towns where this has worked well."
The Church has too much control over Irish schools and hospitals
The Catholic Church runs a number of private hospitals. Most primary schools & many secondary schools are under the patronage of the Church. Some say the Church provides invaluable services in health and education, while others say that a Catholic ethos is being imposed against people’s wishes.
"The people have paid for the construction and improvement of schools and hospitals, which remain in Church ownership. That is not right. Many Church organisations do very valuable charity work, but the people should own publicly-funded schools and hospitals."
The reunification of Ireland would create more problems than it would solve
Some people are opposed to the division of Ireland and believe that reunification should happen as soon as possible. Others disagree on the grounds that Unionists in Northern Ireland do not want it, or because they believe it would be too expensive for the Irish government.
"A new Irish state could be stronger economically and could combine the best of both jurisdictions. But divisions run deep in Northern Ireland, and between North and South. It will take years of sensitive engagement to unify the island’s peoples."
Irish citizens living abroad (including Northern Ireland) should have a vote in Presidential elections
A referendum on this has been proposed. Some argue that political participation should be a core aspect of citizenship, regardless of where you live. Others say that there are too many citizens living abroad, and that they may be out of touch with what is going on in Ireland.
"Many countries allow formerly resident citizens to continue to vote when they first move abroad. This is often limited to a period of time. A similar model could be developed for Ireland, with postal votes for Irish emigrants."
A referendum on Irish unity should be held during the lifetime of the next government
The Good Friday Agreement allows for a referendum in Northern Ireland & the Republic on a united Ireland, if there is evidence that unification is desired by a majority. Some say that, in light of Brexit, a border poll should be held soon. Others believe this would be premature and divisive.
18 is the most common minimum voting age internationally, but some countries have reduced it to 16. Proponents argue that young people should have a say as it affects their future, while opponents argue that many 16-year-olds lack the maturity to vote responsibly.
"From age 16, society begins to attribute some of the responsibility of adulthood, such as the ability to leave school, drive a car or enter full-time work, including paying tax. So why not extend the vote too?"
Some people argue that the EU interferes too much in the affairs of member states, and powers should be returned to the national level. Others argue that further integration is necessary to tackle shared challenges and for economic stability.
"Europe needs to do more to lead on climate action, to protect workers and raise pay, and to invest in public housing (as happened under Delors). At the same time, the EU should return powers which can be better delivered at national or local level"
Ireland should cooperate with other EU member states on defence
Ireland has recently joined the PESCO framework, which seeks to increase defence cooperation between EU states. It commits members to work together on military planning & increase defence spending. It does not create an EU army, but some oppose it because they see it as a step in that direction.
"We should co-operate when we wish to do so. But (as Labour’s manifesto pledges) we will advocate for Ireland’s tradition of military neutrality and safeguard our opt-outs from EU common defence policies."
Ireland should boycott Israeli goods produced in the occupied territories
A proposed law would make it an offence to import or sell goods originating in an occupied territory. Proponents say this will show solidarity with Palestinians living under Israeli occupation. Critics say it discriminates unfairly against Israel, and could undermine important links with the US.