Putting forward our best for Europe and our communities
Remarks by Brendan Howlin TD, leader of the Labour Party, speaking at Labour’s European and Local Election Campaign Launch.
Today’s launch is testament to the strength and resilience of our members and activists all around the country. I want to pay tribute to everyone involved in the many months of hard work that have been put in since 2014 to strengthen the Party and to foster the next generation of members and candidates.
Today, we see evidence of that work.
We have 111 excellent candidates standing in the local elections, alongside three excellent candidates for the European elections. Among our local election candidates, we have nearly 50 candidates who have never run for office before, but who have chosen to stand with the Labour Party. They will stand alongside 36 sitting Labour Councillors who are seeking re-election and a number of other experienced candidates.
I want to see each and every one of our candidates elected. But you will excuse me if I make special mention of our 14 candidates under the age of 30. They are the next generation of Labour leaders, and I know we all wish them well in their campaigns.
For this local election, we set ourselves the ambitious target of ensuring at least 40% of our candidates were of either gender. This target was made all the more challenging as the majority of our returning Councillors were men. But I am delighted and proud to say that we have achieved and exceeded our target. In fact, 41% of our candidates will be women, which is a tremendous achievement and an important step towards changing the culture of politics in this country.
It is extremely important that we continue to provide all the necessary assistance so that women and people from diverse backgrounds are supported to run as Labour candidates and to fully play their part when elected as public representatives.
Labour’s objective in these local elections is simple. We want to serve our communities. We want to restore the spirit of public service and to deliver the public good, which other parties have forgotten how to do.
No one stands as a Labour Party candidate for personal gain. Our candidates are standing because they want to solve the homelessness crisis by building more public housing.
Labour candidates want to make a meaningful contribution to stopping run-away climate change, through home insulation and improved cycling ways, and many other tangible actions that local councils can take.
Labour candidates want our local councils to improve people’s lives by reducing inequalities and ensuring that everyone has a decent standard of living.
Part of that means getting the basics right. From ensuring clean streets, opening new parks and building council housing, Labour has served the community for over 107 years. We want to continue our tradition of fairness and public service that is unrivalled by any other party in this State.
But all politics is not local, despite the famous cliché. We are also fighting to win a crucial battle at European level.
Labour parties across Europe held a quarter of all seats in the last European Parliament, and was the second largest group. Our group – the Socialists and Democrats – will continue to play a pivotal role at the heart of European decision-making following these elections. Hopefully, our group’s candidate, Frans Timmermans, will be elected to replace Jean-Claude Juncker as President of the European Commission.
But there is no doubt that the European Union has been dominated by right-wing parties and right-wing national governments for too many years. The battle we are fighting is to restore Social Europe to the heart of the European Project.
Europe need to reduce inequalities. Europe needs to strengthen public services. And European workers need a pay rise.
We will be demanding a new direction for European economic policy: to raise wages, to invest in public housing and to take decisive steps at European level to reverse climate change.
Labour is fielding three superb candidates for Europe: Dominic Hannigan in Midlands North-West; Sheila Nunan in South; and Alex White in Dublin. Each of them brings experience, talent and drive. And I know that each of them would make an excellent champion for the Irish people in the European Parliament.
By electing MEPs to one of the largest groups in the Parliament, Irish people can rest assured that they will have access to experience and political leverage, to get things done, and to bring about the kind of socially and environmentally conscious Europe that we so badly need.
We have less than a month to bring our message to the people.
Labour is presenting the best candidates for the local and European elections.
We have a drive like no other party to deliver public service and to re-establish the traditions of fairness, solidarity and working for the public good.
I wish all of you the very best in your campaigns, and I will be doing everything I can to see each and every one of you elected on the 24thMay.