Sunday Independent (Ireland)

Social Democrats scotch Kelly’s suggestion of Labour merger

- Hugh O’Connell

A WAR of words has broken out over Labour leader Alan Kelly’s desire for a merger of his party with the Social Democrats in the coming years.

Social Democrats TD Gary Gannon said Mr Kelly “should stop trying to make himself and Labour relevant through associatio­n with the SocDems”.

Labour hit back, saying it was “sad” that Mr Gannon was trying to “make himself relevant with attacks that try to divide the left”.

Mr Kelly last year told the Sunday Independen­t he would like to see the two parties merge “eventually, over a period of time”, describing the SocDems as “like first cousins”. He has repeated the wish recently.

As the Social Democrats gathered online for the party’s annual conference this weekend, Mr Gannon ruled out a future merger.

“Ours is a vibrant party, full of people who were politicise­d by the unfair decisions taken during his time in government,” he said. “There’ll be no merger of our parties — we’re the ones on an upward trajectory and will continue to be a strong force in politics for decades to come.”

A Labour spokesman said of the SocDems: “We’ve welcomed their support for our legislatio­n over the last year and I’m sure the Labour Party will support their bills whenever they get around to introducin­g any.”

The Social Democrats are aiming to win as many as 18 Dáil seats in the next general election, party co-leader Róisín Shortall told delegates last night.

In her joint keynote speech with co-leader Catherine Murphy, she was also critical of the Government’s response to Covid-19.

Ms Shortall urged ministers to take several “concrete steps” to avoid a fourth lockdown, including setting a target daily case number to be reached in the coming months.

She also called for greater resourcing of public health doctors, the introducti­on of full, mandatory hotel quarantine, and a government direction to employers to facilitate homeworkin­g.

Ms Shortall also called for greater financial support for low-paid workers and a requiremen­t that supermarke­ts and other retailers limit numbers and strictly adhere to public health advice.

In her speech, Ms Murphy called for a change in the remit of the Land Developmen­t

Agency and a referendum on housing to allow the State to cap the cost of building land in line with the 1973 Kenny report, which recommende­d controllin­g land costs for the common good.

Earlier, conference delegates voted to adopt policies including a universal basic income, a referendum on the right to housing and supporting the introducti­on of a third income-tax rate.

 ??  ?? PARTY INVITE: Alan Kelly sees a future with SocDems
PARTY INVITE: Alan Kelly sees a future with SocDems

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