Fragmentation on Left will gift FG/FF “axis of the Right” a continuing monopoly of power – O’Connor

02 November 2018

In his opening Address to the Labour Party Conference, Labour Party Chair Jack O Connor said that the fragmentation of the democratic Left would gift the Fine Gael/ Fianna Fail “axis of the Right” a continuing monopoly of power, which in turn would translate into an ongoing housing crisis, low pay, and precarity in the workplace and inactivity on Climate Change.

He said the focus should be on winning the balance of power to solve the housing crisis, legislate for full Collective Bargaining Rights for all workers and take real action on protecting the Environment, instead of going into Government. He also said that Labour should stand ready to organise in the North if the SDLP “ throw’s in its lot with Fianna Fail.

Addressing conference O’Connor said: 

“The question all those of us on the Left, who are committed to the preservation of the democratic system, must face up to is that the extent of division and fragmentation amongst us, will almost inevitably result in a permanent monopoly on power by the parties of the Right. And that in turn translates into the continuing reality of 100,000 households languishing on waiting lists, nearly a quarter of our population at continuing risk of poverty and nothing more than lip service to our responsibilities on Climate Justice as the crucial time for action slips away, in one of the richest countries in the world. It’s all very well to insist on paddling our own canoes, but what about the People?

“And on the issue of electoral strategy and while it will, of course, be a matter to be decided democratically,  I believe our focus  should be on winning the balance of power and negotiating a Progressive Programme for Government, to solve the Housing Crisis, rebuild our Public Health and Education services, develop a proper Public Childcare Service, legislate for full Collective Bargaining Rights for all workers and promote real tangible action on Climate Justice,  but we should not actually seek participation in a coalition with any of the Parties of the Right.

“This is because our position will inevitably be misrepresented as being about seeking office for the sake of being in it and the personal ambitions of individuals. Thankfully, we are no longer in the throes of a national existential crisis and thus other options open up. Moreover, while I’m not so naïve as to fail to appreciate the strategic benefits of participation in a Government, its also very difficult to keep a ‘watch and brief’ on an Administration if you’re actually part and parcel of it. We should not confuse the trappings of office with the exercise of power.

“We in the Labour Party have a special responsibility to and do every single thing that we can to ensure the very real potential for a dramatic egalitarian transformation that the thriving economy we did so much to create can bring about is realized. In the first instance, it means depriving the Fine Gael/ Fianna Fail axis of the Right of their monopoly on power.

“Meanwhile, we also have another responsibility to discharge in the context of the unfolding situation on this Island as a result of Brexit. If as increasingly appears the case, there are people in the SDLP who have decided to throw their lot in with Fianna Fail, we must reach out to Trade Unionists and progressive people across the divided communities in Northern Ireland and in conjunction with comrades in the UK Labour Party and embark on the task of organising there again. Efforts to develop a democratic politics of social interest have always foundered there on the crucible of the ‘National Question’, but now there is agreement on the means to resolve that peacefully one way or the other by a plebiscite of the People.

“A decade after we experienced the biggest collapse in any developed country in the world in the midst of the implosion of the neoliberal project globally precipitating the greatest economic crisis since the Wall St crash of 1929, we in Ireland now have the economic capacity to create a far, far, fairer and better future for all the people on this Island. We have the capacity to realize the egalitarian vision of the Democratic Programme, but it calls for far more imaginative thinking on the part of all of us on the democratic Left than simply paddling our own canoes.

“We in Connolly’s Party have a special responsibility to do all that is necessary to facilitate it. Let’s go do it, Comrades!”

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