Labour Chairperson rejects any idea of merging into FF/SDLP” tie-up”
Commenting on speculation by columnist Noel Whelan in today’s Irish Times, The Labour Party Chairperson, Jack O’Connor has rejected absolutely out of hand any suggestion of Labour merging into what he described as any potential “tie -up” between Fianna Fail and the SDLP. He also went on to say that in the event of a merger between Fianna Fail and the SDLP, Labour should begin organising in the North again.
Mr O’Connor said:
“Noel Whelan is probably indulging in a bit of end of silly season kite-flying, but it is extremely damaging to the Labour Party. I mean no disrespect to the Fianna Fail Party, indeed I am on the record as saying that the decision not to go back into Government with them in 1994 was one of the worse mistakes we ever made. However, Fianna Fail is a centre-right party in the nationalist tradition whereas we are a democratic socialist party.
“Granted we are severely depleted because we had to go into Government in a minority position as it was the only way to prevent Fine Gael and the Troika from dismantling our social welfare system, privatizing our key strategic state assets and emasculating the laws that protect people’s rights at work, similar to what happened in every “Programme Country” and indeed several others. We succeeded in protecting all of them while we regained our national economic sovereignty. However, tragically we made a “dogs dinner” of a number of less important issues, most particularly water charges.
“Now that we are one of the best performing economies in the EU, our focus must be on tackling economic inequality head on. This entails amending the Constitution to provide for the same right to collective bargaining for every worker in Ireland that our contemporaries in most other EU countries enjoy. Along with that it means deploying all the additional revenues generated by our growing economy on solving the housing crisis and rebuilding our public services such as health care and education as well as establishing a proper public childcare service. Fianna Fail and Fine Gael are both opposed to writing the right to Collective Bargaining into the Constitution and they are opposed to deploying all the additional revenues generated by the recovery into housing our people and rebuilding our public services. Accordingly, I most emphatically dismiss any suggestion of any merger of the type Noel Whelan is speculating about, out of hand, even if it is only silly season kite – flying.
“There is of course an obligation on us to try to form alliances with those in the socialist tradition in small parties and among the independents as well as in civil society organisations, such as the Trade Unions, if we are to have any chance of creating the capacity to bring about the shift towards real economic equality for all. That’s what we and indeed others on the centre left, should focus on, not silly season nonsense about merging with any of the parties on the right.
“Moreover, if the SDLP choses to throw its lot in with Fianna Fail, we in the Labour Party should engage with our comrades in the UK Labour Party, with a view to organising across the community in the North in a non-sectarian way to press the case for economic equality and justice for all. This was always hindered by the constitutional question, but now that has been solved on the basis of the principle of consent.”