We campaign for Decency, for Justice and for Equality in Society

Issued 24 May 2017

Speech by Party Leader Brendan Howlin at the Labour Party Dublin South West selection convention.

24th May 2017

In just over a year and a half, on the 21st January 2019, we will be celebrating the centenary of this country’s Declaration of Independence at the first meeting of Dáil Éireann.

We probably have a greater chance of realising the aspirations of the First Dáil over this coming period than in any similar period in our history.

There are challenges of course – we will have to navigate the consequences of Brexit and Trump.

But we could do it.

We are on track to end our structural deficit next year.

Once we do that, any Government in power between then and 2022 will have more resources at their disposal than at any time since the peak of the property bubble.

With such resources available, our ambitions must be high.

We could deliver a living wage for all in work; decent housing for all our people; a top quality healthcare system; a focus on education and skills that allows every person to realise their potential; full Collective Bargaining rights for working people; and entitlement to full social and cultural rights for all.

That’s an agenda for progress.

It’s an agenda for our future.

We in Labour must focus relentlessly on the future and on delivering the best possible future – a future measured by progress towards a decent, just and equal society.

In other words, exactly the type of future imagined in the 1916 Proclamation at the insistence of our founder James Connolly, and reflected in the 1919 Democratic Programme of the First Dáil, co-authored by our Party Leader Tom Johnson.

One of the issues we must confront is globalisation.

It is of course a reality. But it is stirring up fears of real disenfranchisement.

Digitalisation, automation and the 4th industrial revolution should be developments of enormous potential.

But, instead, the casualisation of work is forcing people into precarious employment, with low hours contracts, low levels of pay and frequent periods of unemployment or underemployment.

That is why collective bargaining matters.

And that is why it remains central to Labour’s agenda.

Why I pledge that we will continue to pursue the cause of labour, organised and unorganised, as a central priority of our work.

Another core priority for us is public investment.

Over the five years, the State will spend about €32bn on schools and hospitals, roads and houses, and other capital projects.

This creates jobs, and it improves our social services at the same time.

Our capital spending has been much lower than it should be.

Now, when unemployment continues to fall and our economy continues to strengthen, our ambitions should be expanding again.

The IMF, IBEC and ICTU all agree with us that now is the time for greater investment.

We urgently need to tackle infrastructural bottlenecks, to make up for historical underinvestment, and to deal with the rapid growth within the economy, alongside the challenges we face from Brexit.

We need to scrap Michael Noonan’s ‘rainy-day fund’.

Instead of putting €3bn on account where it can yield no dividend at all for the public, we need to use this funding to invest in the infrastructure that our communities rely on.

And we need to use the proceeds from the sale of AIB to further boost investment, rather than just paying down our already falling levels of debt.

If we re-oriented our spending plans to meet the economy’s needs then, instead of having just €2.65bn to invest in school and homes and transport, we would have over €8.5bn to spend over the next few years, without any negative risks to our economy.

The Dáil agreed with us on this last week. But the Government seems determined simply to ignore the Dáil vote.

Although, at least one of the contestants for the FG leadership agrees with us that Enda Kenny and Michael Noonan’s bizarre plan to aim for a debt-to-GDP ratio far lower than Europe requires should be quietly abandoned.

Even if the Dáil debate on the issue can be ignored, the internal Fine Gael debate may prove more productive.

Our party is not just our policies.

It is also all about our candidates.

We in Labour have been rebuilding our party over the past 12 months.

We had a successful recruitment drive.

We reinvigorated our constituency councils and branches.

We are also unveiling a new generation of Labour candidates, for a party that is now on an election footing.

This is my fifth recent selection convention.

We have already selected Ged Nash in Louth, Rebecca Moynihan in Dublin South Central, Andrew Montague in Dublin North West and Deirdre Kingston in Dun Laoghaire.

There is one thing more important than any other during an election: the strength of our candidates.

I know Martina’s strengths because she worked with me in developing the Bill we published last month to safeguard people against all forms of harassment, including stalking, cyber- bullying and so-called 'revenge porn'.

Martina’s strengths are rooted in her community. In her links with local schools, the local area partnership, the local council, the local newspaper – even the local Premiership football club.

In all Martina’s work she is working hard as your representative in this community.

Working with councillors Mick Duff and Pamela Kearns;

And with local area reps Aideen Carberry, Peter Leonard and Samantha Duff;

I believe that Martina will win back the seat so ably held by Pat Rabbitte and Eamonn Walsh.

On the ground in our party you will find community leaders like Martina, who are determined to see their communities make real progress.

By building sustainable environments.

By running a planning system that is led by and responds to the needs of the community and not the interests of developers.

By combatting educational disadvantage and ensuring the best healthcare is available to everyone who needs it.

By providing – and not just promising – affordable housing and urban regeneration.

These are Labour’s issues. This is what we stand for.

The bread-and-butter issues that shape daily life – and the quality of life.

We campaign for decency, for justice and for equality in society.

And it is by selecting candidates like Martina that we continue Labour’s fight.

They will join a much larger Labour team in the next Dáil.

My job is to lead our party in fighting for decency, for justice, for equality.

In relentlessly fighting for a better future, that is grounded on our founding principles and values.

We need Martina on our Dáil team, to help us with the fight.