Howlin ral­lies the troops as elec­tion talk gath­ers pace

Wexford People - - NEWS - By ANNA HAYES

LABOUR PARTY leader and Wex­ford TD Bren­dan Howlin has said that his team of can­di­dates is on elec­tion foot­ing, whether the next out­ing is the lo­cal elec­tions or a snap gen­eral elec­tion be­fore then.

In a wide rang­ing key­note ad­dress at his party’s con­fer­ence in the Balls­bridge Ho­tel in Dublin, Deputy Howlin ac­knowl­edged the many se­ri­ous prob­lems that peo­ple faced, say­ing that the next gen­er­a­tion was the first in 100 years to in­herit a world in worse con­di­tion than it was for their par­ents and grand­par­ents.

He touched on so­cial is­sues af­fect­ing Ire­land such as hous­ing short­age, poverty, men­tal health con­cerns, drug ad­dic­tion, and ill­ness, but also drew at­ten­tion to the big­ger pic­ture of cli­mate change and the dis­tri­bu­tion of the world’s wealth.

‘We have only 12 years left to pre­vent ex­treme cli­mate change ac­cord­ing to the world’s great­est ex­perts. It is the moral im­per­a­tive of our age.’

He ac­cepted that with so many ‘over­whelm­ing’ is­sues, peo­ple felt a sense of pow­er­less­ness and the idea of work­ing col­lec­tively for change had di­min­ished but, he pointed out, it was key to progress.

‘All the great achieve­ments in our State’s his­tory have been col­lec­tive ef­forts.’

He be­lieved that demo­cratic pol­i­tics was not work­ing the way it should and ac­knowl­edged that only one-in-five peo­ple say they trust politi­cians. Many, he said, had voted for anti-pol­i­tics can­di­dates who gave voice to their frus­tra­tions but of­fered no so­lu­tions.

He said his party was com­mit­ted to build­ing a ‘truly re­spon­sive sys­tem of gov­ern­ment’ with re­stored town coun­cils, prop­erly fi­nanced lo­cal gov­ern­ment, and a well func­tion­ing Dáil and Seanad, with stronger democ­racy in the Euro­pean Union. Labour, he said, had con­sis­tently cham­pi­oned de­cency, jus­tice and equal­ity - work­ers rights, women’s rights, gay rights, re­duced poverty, free ed­u­ca­tion, pub­lic ethics.

The party, he said, had al­ways been out­num­bered but had lead on the is­sues, mak­ing ar­gu­ments that the oth­ers even­tu­ally caught up to.

‘We were out­voted by ev­ery other mem­ber of Dáil Éire­ann on the Bank Guar­an­tee. But we were still right. Labour and other pro­gres­sives were out­num­bered two-to-one when the Eighth Amend­ment was put into the Con­sti­tu­tion 35 years ago. This year, at last, that was re­versed.’

He ex­pressed his thanks to all those at the con­fer­ence for their ded­i­ca­tion to the party, and at­tacked the cur­rent gov­ern­ment say­ing they were fail­ing in hous­ing, health and on cli­mate change.

‘They were gifted an econ­omy well on the way to re­cov­ery, but they are squan­der­ing this op­por­tu­nity to achieve real progress.’

The con­fi­dence and sup­ply agree­ment be­tween Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil wasn’t work­ing, he said, point­ing out that the op­po­si­tion party ‘goes through the mo­tions of op­pos­ing the gov­ern­ment’ but then ab­stained on cru­cial votes.

‘What would they do dif­fer­ently in of­fice? Their only eco­nomic goal is to per­suade peo­ple to for­get that they ru­ined this coun­try.’

Labour, he said, was a broad fam­ily of pro­gres­sive thinkers. He felt that Labour would emerge from the next lo­cal, Euro­pean and Dáil elec­tions in a stronger po­si­tion but ac­cepted that they might not win ev­ery seat they tar­geted.

He said he would call on Labour vot­ers to give their next pref­er­ences to other pro­gres­sive can­di­dates in or­der to have pro­gres­sive voices in con­stituen­cies, say­ing: ‘We know that only a pro­gres­sive plat­form, for eco­nomic equal­ity and cli­mate jus­tice, will de­liver a New Re­pub­lic for all our peo­ple.’

He be­lieved that peo­ple needed to ‘take back the State’ as an in­stru­ment of so­cial progress, say­ing a stronger State was needed to ad­dress the is­sues that peo­ple were fac­ing.

Labour, he said, had a team of ex­cel­lent can­di­dates lined up for the fu­ture, adding that in ad­vance of the next gen­eral elec­tion the party would have a core list of ‘red line’ de­mands, and would not sup­port any gov­ern­ment that did not meet all of them.

Ear­lier, on the way to the con­fer­ence, the Labour leader and Wex­ford coun­cil­lor Ge­orge Lawlor made an un­ex­pected stop-off, at the Hedge­hog Res­cue Cen­tre in Rush, af­ter Cllr Lawlor’s wife Yvonne found a con­fused prickly vis­i­tor in their gar­den.

Cllr Lawlor ex­plained: ‘He came into our gar­den but at this time of year he should be hi­ber­nat­ing so Yvonne took him in, looked af­ter him, and fed him. When we were go­ing up to the con­fer­ence we said we’d drop him off on the way!’

Bren­dan Howlin de­liv­er­ing his key­note ad­dress.

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