May Day Statement from Jack O’Connor
Speaking on May Day 2018, Labour Party Chairperson Jack O’Connor issued the following statement:
“Best wishes to everyone on May Day.
Even before it became International Workers Day, May Day traditionally evoked hope and opportunity. There is every reason to be hopeful in Ireland today.
Thanks to the sacrifices the people have made we have emerged from the most serious economic crisis in any developed country in the world since the Wall St crash of 1929. Our economy is one of the most rapidly growing and dynamic in all of Europe. It is a moment laden with potential to build a better, fairer future for all. It must not be squandered.
We in the Labour Party played a key role in the transformation due to our participation in the last Government. We managed to do it while preserving most of our social and economic infrastructure. We retained the integrity of our Social Welfare system, despite some painful cuts, especially in relation to pensions, which must be reversed as a matter of absolute priority. All our strategically important state assets such as the ESB, our ports and airports as well as the 1700 hectares of building land were retained in public ownership. We ensured that everyone who wished to remain in employment in the Public Service was able to do so, without being faced with the prospect of compulsory redundancy. We reinstated the National Minimum Wage and increased it as well as preserving all the laws protecting people’s rights at work and in some cases reinstating them when they had been struck out by the Courts. Indeed, we have the distinction of being the only country in the world to legislate to strengthen Collective Bargaining Rights against the background of the economic collapse of 2008.
Yes, we made mistakes, but we accomplished all this despite the horrendous memorandum Fianna Fail had negotiated with the ECB/EU/IMF Troika, based on its own barbaric National Development Plan. We accomplished it despite being outnumbered by more than two to one by Fine Gael who had been elected on a manifesto promising savage cuts in core SW rates and employment in the public service, as well as selling off all the state’s crucial strategic assets and attacking employment protective legislation. Moreover, we accomplished it despite inheriting the largest current public budget deficit in all of the Eurozone, including that of Greece.
As a result, we in Ireland now have the capacity to build a better, fairer future in a New Republic. We can solve the housing crisis and set about rebuilding our Public Health, education and childcare services as well as our transport infrastructure. Simultaneously we can restore full pension provision to our senior citizens. Parallel with this we must prioritise decent secure jobs for our young people instead of insecure precarious work, provide them with a right to representation in employment and abolish lower entry rates.
We can do all this between now and the centenary of the foundation of the State in 2022. It can be done without increasing taxation, but we will have to deploy all the available revenues generated by our dynamic economy to do it.
Labour and the Constructive Left must build a political force strong enough to win the balance of power to enable it to happen. Otherwise, the opportunity will be squandered through vote buying tax cutting and nonsensical “rainy day” funds, by Fine Gael and Fianna Fail. We must not allow it to happen. The people did not make the sacrifices they made to return to the politics of private affluence for the few and public squalor for the many. We cannot afford to lose a minute more. We must get all our branches fully functioning again and get out and engage with the people on our plans for a better, fairer future for all. Parallel with this we must seek constructive engagement with others on the Left to forge a principled unity for sustainable socialism.
Over the next 25 days we must do everything we can to persuade our fellow citizens to repeal the 8th amendment, so that women and children can obtain the care that they need in their own country. We must continue to approach it in a manner that acknowledges the profoundly held views of others on this very sensitive matter. It is not about asserting the opinion of one side over the other. Rather it is about acknowledging the diversity of opinion in a modern democratic republic.
Finally let us not forget all those who are struggling under the burden of oppression, exploitation and war across the world. We extend our solidarity to them all on this May Day 2018 and recommit ourselves to strive together with others on the constructive Left at home and abroad for a better, fairer future for all.
Labour Party Chairperson.