We thoroughly enjoyed engaging in the lively debates surrounding various motions, finding both the discussions and active participation to be immensely fulfilling. The experience was further heightened by the honour of being elected as the national chairperson, a role for which I am sincerely grateful. The conference provided a broad scope of insights and interactions. In detail, we explored the intricacies of matters pertaining to local government, housing programmes, implementing stronger legislation and economic mechanisms on behald of workers, legal aid, small business supports, economic democracy, credit facilities, the environment, implementing protections for farmers, as well as health & social care. This resulted in a memorable, educational and rewarding occasion.
We would also like to thank our general secretary, Billie Sparks, for opening the event, followed by an address from leader Ivana Bacik TD. Gratitude must also be expressed to Senator Rebecca Moynihan and Fr. Michael Long S.P.S, of the Cabragh Wetlands Trust (headquartered at its dedicated environmental and agricultural centre at Holycross, Co. Tipperary) for an extremely perceptive panel discussion. We were greeted by former cabinet minister and party leader, Alan Kelly TD, who also addressed our conference, being based in his home-constituency.
The last number of years have been greatly challenging for Labour Youth for a variety of reasons, but we wish now to move forward as an organisation with a new energy in our fight for a better Ireland. The outgoing national youth executive dedicated a considerable amount of time to a thorough review of Labour Youth’s structure, and potential to thrive in a political environment that has changed rapidly over the course of the past three years in particular.
One change of note is that the new national youth executive committee has been elected to serve a two year term. We have decided to make its development a dedicated project in order to draw enhanced support and presence within our constituencies so that an influx of ‘Gen Z’ voters can find a worthwhile and engaging home in Labour, which ideally, would result in a youth ‘GOTV’ effort in favour of our candidates. This will be reflected in our conscious effort to interact with as many local Labour groups as possible, in addition to hosting our in-person, national meetings across each of the provinces. It would also be my intention to spend weekends travelling across to our various constituencies to engage with party members and to see what we can do in order to encourage young people to support Labour and our candidates. Our first week alone has been exceptionally busy, as our members strive to represent the Labour vision at home and abroad.
I am extremely honoured to have been deemed suitable for the role of national chairperson. It is one which I do not take for granted, and look forward to meeting and helping as many of you as possible over the course of my term. I am profoundly convinced that the provision of opportunities and conditions that enable all of our people to secure life’s fundamental needs should be the primary concern of any responsible government. We have never wavered in our conviction in the right of our people to democratically own, control, and govern Ireland, via our regional and national assemblies, and we will continue to fight for this fundamental liberty. As members of society (because we live in a society), we are charged with social responsibilities, and the primary responsibility of organised society, the government, or the state, is to safeguard the dignity of the human person and provide employment and a living wage for all. All of the state’s authority should be used for the benefit of the people, particularly the indebted, the unemployed, and those with dependents.
We envision an Ireland in which the entire population wields the power to govern the country, including the economy. These people make their living by working to improve the community on multiple levels, including the physical, the spiritual, and the cultural. Whether they work by hand or brain in the city or the country, in industry or agriculture, in the home, the office, or the shop, in logistics and distribution – regardless of vocation, suited to their skills, they serve the interest of the country. As a consequence of this, the Labour Party makes a distinction between a free commonwealth of the people that is founded on national service, and a republic that is nothing more than a covert encampment for a monarchy that is founded on crude individualism and financial exclusivity. Our ultimate objective is to create a democracy that is functional over the entirety of Ireland. Not a republic that competes with monarchs and other forms of despotism in the depredation of the labour force; one in which power, prosperity, and privilege are hoarded by a few avaricious individuals and entities, while the remnants of the population suffers from misery, destitution, and financial servitude. A republic that promotes the mistreatment of the many for the benefit of the few would merely represent an alteration in phraseology; society’s socio-economic ills would remain unresolved, and the dichotomy would persist in which flourishing money-lenders co-exist with the shelters of refuge, and palatial glass towers reign over the underprivileged town-lands and derelict structures, which serves as an affirmation of wealth’s triumph over the people of the nation. This stark contrast between the privileged few and the marginalized majority deepens the divide within society, perpetuating a cycle of inequality and social unrest. The government’s failure to address these socio-economic disparities undermines the very essence of democracy, as it allows for the continued exploitation and marginalisation of its citizens.
Over the course of the next two years, we will be faced with a monumental task. We are strong in our conviction that the economy must be social, and therefore act in service to society, especially to those upon whom it depends for its day-to-day functioning. We have never faltered in our belief that a functioning, healthy Ireland is one in which prosperity can be obtained when we act on our rights, yet also our duties, in fulfilling the social contract between the individual and the state, but also between one another in the context of society as a whole. Labour Youth appreciates that a society that is truly socially just is one in which protections by the state are combined with the beneficiary’s own sense of civic duty.
We negotiate for sufficient pay and just conditions. Commerce in the state will flourish if workers receive enhanced compensation, given that often short-changed farmers and proprietors of small businesses, who require a market for their goods, would gain. Exporting the nation’s top workers to America, Britain, and Australia, while rendering those who must stay at home to rely on stigmatised systems of assistance, will not end the hardships that so many of our people are compelled to face. Similarly important is acknowledging that the catch cries elucidated by portions of the political forum drastically oversimplify a myriad of social and legal frameworks, without articulating a practical vision or commitment to solving these most pressing problems.
We desire a prosperous, happy, and autonomous working-class in the nation – not a dichotomy where the humble, hardworking portion of the populace is reduced to little more than a faction of downtrodden paupers. We therefore must put our courage in our grasp. With council and EU elections taking place this forthcoming coming year, you may form the conclusion that in Labour, by means of the ballot paper, you can place your trust in a party that believes that the first duty of any responsible government is to ensure that the necessities of life can be obtained by all our people.
A Labour Party holding a respectable position in the Oireachtas, the EU Parliament, and local authorities would press a view on the legislature that laws and frameworks which deny or delay justice and dignity to the masses of the people must be altered, so that humanity shall always take precedence over exclusion and inertia. First and foremost, we stand for the supremacy of parliamentary institutions; Labour is opposed to every form of dictatorship, controlled by any sole class, party, or political unit. Any effective democratic state must facilitate the considerations of all stakeholders. To this end, the immediate task lies with the advancement of the cause of human prosperity and progress. Contrary to the narrative projected by the corrosive substance of revisionism, history has shown that a Labour Party is needed to rein in on the exactions of pernicious influences and ensure that our social contract is performed. In the context of young people, the economic barriers which face our age group today are at their greatest in a non-recessionary period since the 1920s. Labour had the answer back then, and it has the answer now.
We are all too aware that politics today is more cut-throat and unforgiving than it has been since the foundation of the State. Human considerations are easily and often forgotten. We wish to play a strong supporting role in the work conducted by our representatives, staff, and volunteers, and to this end, we ask that if there is anything that we can help with, to please reach out to us. If there is something which Labour Youth can and should do in order to help you directly in your constituency, please also inform us of this.