GOVERNMENT PARALYSIS MEANS LABOUR MUST BE PREPARED FOR ELECTION
This is my fourth selection convention in the past week.
And it has been genuinely encouraging to see so many members turn out at every meeting, in support of our fine party candidates.
Ged Nash in Louth, Rebecca Moynihan in Dublin South Central and Andrew Montague in Dublin North West have already been selected.
And tonight we add another remarkable talent to that cohort.
We in Labour had a bruising time in Government and we had an even more bruising general election.
So we have been rebuilding our party over the past 12 months.
We had a successful recruitment drive.
We reinvigorated our constituency councils and branches.
And the hard work culminates in our party conference this weekend.
We will then, I hope, adopt a new party constitution that is better fit for purpose and that properly empowers our greatest resource – the party membership.
We are also unveiling a new generation of Labour candidates.
All this activity on our part compares with a pretty lacklustre period on the Irish political stage.
Far from seeing the dawn of a ‘new politics’, this has become, in Jan O’Sullivan’s words, a do-nothing Dáil.
2016 saw less legislation enacted than in any other year on record.
On issue after issue, Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil have kicked important issues down the road.
Repeal of the eighth.
Creating a living wage.
Tackling water charges.
It’s not good enough – our people deserve better.
But they won’t get it from the Government, or from this Dáil.
On the water charges, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael conclusively proved that the people’s choice is between Tweedledum and Tweedledummer.
The two parties are impossible to tell apart, on any impartial analysis of their policies.
But, by refusing to recognise this and to co-operate with each other, they have created the space that is now filled up with a ragbag of self-promoters and with ideologues of vitriol.
First, Sinn Féin ran scared of the Trots. Then Fianna Fáil ran scared of Sinn Féin. And then Fine Gael abandoned its own core principles for fear of losing out to Fianna Fáil.
“The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.”
All that passion, all that intensity on the part of so-called socialists masks something that is hollow, unprincipled and destructive.
It is an obsession with permanent, opportunistic conflict and confrontation.
Opposing purely and simply for the sake of opposing.
Craving the power only to block and to destroy, while avoiding any responsibility to create or make progress.
Our politics is suffering because of three things:
Fianna Fáil’s self-serving opposition to those with whom they have no real disagreement;
Ragbag Independents who don’t know how they got into the Dáil or why or whether they could do it again;
And parties of the extreme who are just here to malign and traduce everyone else, without ever being expected to propose anything positive.
And this Government is paralysed as a result.
So, eight weeks ago, I put our party on an election footing.
There is no point pretending this Government might last five years – there’s no chance of that.
Whenever this arrangement falls apart, we will be ready.
Over the last few weeks, that work has started in earnest.
The policy committee are taking a fresh look at our policy platform.
This weekend, we will launch two new policy projects – one on the future of work, and the other on the greening of Ireland.
We’ve been looking at poster designs, and at fundraising to support candidates, and at all of the other logistics involved in an election campaign.
But there is one thing more important than any other during an election: the strength of our candidates.
And in here in Dún Laoghaire you have selected a champion.
Deirdre successfully contested the 2014 local elections. She represents the people of Blackrock, Booterstown, Deansgrange, Seapoint and Monkstown.
Deirdre’s background is in communications. She worked in the Communications Department of Gorta. She has also worked part-time in the Oireachtas.
And she works hardest of all as a local representative in this community.
Local representatives tackle the very basic challenges that their communities face. They work at the coalface.
They deal with issues like housing, transport, planning, green spaces and play spaces;
Education and community services;
The scourge of crime and anti-social behaviour.
On the ground in our party you will find community leaders who are determined to see their communities make real progress.
By growing the economy and supporting small business.
By building sustainable environments with more green space, more allotments, better recycling and waste reduction.
By running a planning system that is led by and responds to the needs of the community and not the interests of developers.
By improving our cycling facilities, our bus corridors and our entire public transport.
By combatting educational disadvantage and ensuring the best healthcare is available to everyone who needs it.
By providing – and not just promising – affordable housing and urban regeneration.
I have said it before. These are Labour’s issues. This is what we stand for.
The bread-and-butter issues that shape daily life – and the quality of life.
We campaign for decency, for justice and for equality in society.
And it is by selecting candidates like Deirdrethat we continue Labour’s fight.
We need politicians who are committed to implementing, and not just campaigning for, progressive change.
With hard work, with a continuing commitment to progress, and with all of us standing next to them, they will join a much larger Labour team in the next Dáil.
Because people are rapidly getting sick of the politics we are witnessing.
Parties on one side that hold power, but do nothing with it.
Parties on another side who fight for change, but don’t want the power to deliver it.
And only Labour committed to change;
And committed to doing the hard yards to deliver it.
We need Deirdre on our Dáil team.