Pat Rabbitte came to Longford town on Thursday last to open Labour party candidate Mae Sexton’s new constituency office in Longford town. A crowd of around 30 people waited in the biting wind for the Labour Party Justice spokesman, the first high profile politician to visit the town since the election was called. Deputy Rabbitte spent nearly two hours around Longford town, stopping for a quick haircut with local barber Colin Smith, and meeting local people. Cllr Sexton was leading the charge, introducing her party colleague to many local people along the way.
It was an informal and friendly walkabout, with plenty of people coming up to the Mayo native to shake his hand and chit chat. There was no ramatazz – ‘The Labour Party don’t do ramatazz’ one supporter told the Leader on the day but this was a low-key, traditional meet and greet to get Cllr Sexton’s campaign off the ground.
Speaking to the Longford Leader, Deputy Rabbitte acknowledged that jobs and the economy were at the top of the agenda for voters in the forthcoming election. The key to promote growth and job creation in the regions would be access to credit for small and medium business, he said.
“The single biggest issue for small and medium businesses to keep going, to employ more people, is access to credit,” he stated.
Pointing out that the Labour Party were unveiling their Growth and Stability Plan that day, Deputy Rabbitte said that the party is promoting a proposal which would go back to the old ICC bank model.
“This would see the establishment of strategic investment bank designed to give access to funds for businesses,” he explained. Labour is proposing to transfer 2bn euro from the Pension Reserve Fund to leverage up to 20bn euro from the European Investment Bank. “This would start a flow of credit to smaller business,” he explained.
He acknowledged that for people who are working, the Universal Social Charge was a major issue.
“When Brian Lenihan announced this charge first, it was supposed to be made up of the health levy, the income levy and PRSI. We now know that this is not the case,” he pointed out, adding that people on the higher take rate are paying 41% tax plus 4% USC (on the first 10,037 euro of their salary) plus 7% USC on the remainder.
The indications are that a new Government would not make any changes to the Universal Social Charge.
But Deputy Rabbitte pointed out that the party proposed to reverse the cut in the minimum wage.
The Dublin South West TD also talked up the Labour party’s chances of getting two seats in this constituency indicating that polls show the party to be performing very well in Longford-Westmeath.
However he did acknowledge that while Deputy Willie Penrose traditionally polls extremely well (he attained over 9,000 first preferences in 2007), his transfers may not automatically travel down the N4 to Longford. However he was keen to promote the Longford Labour candidate in her own right.
Speaking about Cllr Secton who was formerly at TD for the Progressive Democrats in the 2002-2007 Government, Deputy Rabbitte said that she had a strong commitment to Co Longford, as a politician and a community activist and that she had proven herself to be a voice for the “ordinary people”.