Labour should be proud of its achievements

28 May 2016

Addressing Labour Party public representatives

 

If Bill Clinton had been right – and it was all about the economy stupid – we should have fared better at the last election. But economic statistics are arid affairs and difficult to excite the public about.

 

And it is the case too that the debate about the last election had a touch of survivors bias about it. Our opponents, Sinn Fein and the AAA/PBP would have driven the economy into the ground had they been let.

 

We didn’t let them. The economy recovered. Spectacularly. So much so that we couldn’t convince people that these parties would put it at risk.

 

So the debate was about the quality of the recovery. Or the residual issues that remained from the biggest economic shock the state has ever encountered.

 

We may have solved the big problem, but we couldn’t solve every problem, and we suffered from it.

 

But arid though they may be there is one statistic released this week by the CSO that we should shout from the rooftops. From its peak at over 15% unemployment has practically halved to under 8%.

 

This is nothing to do with the new Government. It is all our work and we should be proud of it. Proud because employment matters to the party of Labour.

 

As Joan always said, employment matters. It is the best route out of poverty. It prevents inter-generational disadvantage. It allows people to participate in society. It is good for people’s self-worth.

 

For Labour, it is the economic statistic that matters. And our track record books no criticism. It is incredible. 155,000 people and their families better off. And these were the real victims of the crash.

 

At the conclusion of one of my budget speeches I said that in time the scale of Ireland’s economic recovery would be as historic as its crash.

 

This week, one economic commentator said we have created as many jobs over the last four years as the state created between its foundation and 1996. It is some turnaround. But ironically it didn’t work for us at the election.

 

So we’re asked now can we recover. Well if Fianna Fail can recover from ruining the country I know Labour can recover from rescuing it. We have a distinct political space.

 

We are a party of the left.

 

We like to solve problems, not just shout about them.

 

We are liberal – we have driven the modernisation of Ireland by working with others, not shouting at them.

 

We are responsible.  Why? Because as Kinnock pointed out over thirty years ago, you cannot play politics with people’s lives.

 

And the one lesson we should have all learnt from the last decade is that there is a price to be paid for messing up the public finances. We cannot go down that road again, and Labour will not do so. We’ve said it before but it bears repeating.

 

Compare Ireland now with Greece, the one-time poster-child of the so called Left.  While we have had two expansionary budgets, they continue to pass austerity measures. Worse still. Compare Ireland now to the poor people of Venezuela who’s unfortunate people have also been the subject of the fantasies of the Irish left.

 

There is simply no end to the misery Paul Murphy and is ilk wish to inflict on others. Let’s see too how Sinn Féin handle the economic ministry in Belfast!

 

For two long they have had it both ways. Rhetoric in the Dáil and people dying on the streets in Belfast. Hard line on crime here and the Leadership’s associates arrested on arms offences here.

 

Our recovery will not be easy. It will be won street by street, house by house. But it is essential.

 

Without Labour there is no left voice in Irish politics.

 

Without Labour there is nobody to temper the right hegemony.

 

Without Labour there is nobody to emphasise the quality of people’s lives.

 

Without Labour there is nobody honest enough to say we can’t have everything for nothing because you want to win by elections.

 

Without Labour there is nobody to point out that sensible economic management is in everybody’s interest.

 

Without Labour who will advance the liberal agenda?

 

Whether we face the electorate next at a General Election or in the local elections in a few years’ time, let Labour’s distinctive identity and voice ring out. We’ll be proud of our achievements and ambitious about what Ireland can achieve. The sacrifices of recent years would be pointless without that ambition and that drive.

 

And only Labour has it.

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