Speech by Brendan Howlin TD at Kildare North Labour selection convention

21 September 2017

Good evening all.

It’s great to see such a turnout here to support both Emmet and Fergus.

The last twelve months have not represented Irish politics finest hour.

Having squabbled for 70 days, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael finally came to an agreement.

And we might have thought that some work would begin.

Very quickly, we realised how wrongly placed that hope had been.

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.

2017 has not been much better.

On issue after issue, Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil have kicked important issues down the road.

The baptism barrier in schools.

Repeal of the eighth amendment.

Funding of third-level.

Creating a living wage.

Reform of the Gardaí.

Tackling water charges.

Creating a health system that works.

All of these have been repeatedly kicked down the road.

Bluntly, it’s not good enough – our people deserve better.

We have had our own work to do over the last year.

After a bruising few years, we needed a bit of time to pick ourselves up and dust ourselves down.

And that is what we have been doing.

We have agreed a new party constitution.

We have recruited new members, and selected 48 new local area representatives.

We have been rebuilding our party, so that we are ready to play a role in rebuilding our country.

There is no point pretending this Government might last five years – there’s little chance of that.

So, whenever this cosy arrangement falls apart, we will be ready.

Over the last few weeks, that work has started in earnest.

We are looking at our policy platform with a totally fresh set of eyes.

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.

Tonight, we select our ninth general election candidate.

We have been building a great team of women and men.

Many of them new, young candidates;

Who will stand alongside people like Emmet and others who have exceptional experience to bring to the table.

Before I say a few words about Emmet, I would also like to pay tribute to Fergus.

It is not easy to put up your hand, and to contest a selection convention.

For me, it is a sign of strength for our party that we have people like Fergus willing to do so.

I am delighted that we have Fergus on our team as a Local Area Representative.

And I’m sure this won’t be the last time he contests a Dáil convention!

But tonight belongs to Emmet.

He has served his party, and his county with distinction for many years, and I am delighted he is campaigning to do so again.

Emmet and I were both elected to Dáil Éireann on the same day in 1987.

The other new member of the Parliamentary Labour Party that day was one Michael D. Higgins.

Not a bad cohort, in my view!

Throughout his time in Dáil Éireann, Emmet was a tireless advocate for certain causes.

His work on nuclear disarmament deserves more recognition than it gets.

His campaigning on behalf of the Irish communities in Britain even moreso.

And his determination to see more public housing built has never wavered.

He also has a wicked sense of humour – often badly needed around Leinster House!

So I am delighted that Emmet has been selected to once more contest the constituency of Kildare North on behalf of the Labour Party.

To do so, he will need the support of everyone gathered here tonight.

I know Mary will be standing right by his side, as she always has.

Dave Moynan too – the loyal lieutenant that every successful politician needs!

And most of all the members.

The members who feed into our policies; who inspire our campaigns; and who work so hard to elect Labour voices.

Kildare North needs a Labour TD.

And to win back his seat, Emmet will need each and every one of you.

But I have no doubt, with hard work, with a continuing commitment to progress, and with all of us standing next to him, he will win back our seat.

And I have no doubt it will be one of many, whenever that day comes.

Because people are rapidly getting sick of the politics we are witnessing.

Parties on one side that hold power, but do nothing with in.

Parties on another side who fight for change, but don’t want the power to deliver it.

And only Labour committed to change;

Committed to doing the hard yards to deliver it.

Only Labour working to build a better future.

The way it always has been.

Thank you.

 

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