WHENEVER AN ELECTION COMES, LABOUR WILL BE READY
18 April 2017
Party Leader and Spokesperson on Foreign Affairs and Northern Ireland
It’s great to see so many of you here this evening, in support of two fine party candidates.
The last twelve months have been pretty lacklustre in Irish politics.
Far from seeing the dawn of a ‘new politics’, as so many hoped for, this has become, in Jan O’Sullivan’s words, a do-nothing Dáil.
2016 saw less legislation enacted than in any other year on record.
On issue after issue, Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil have kicked important issues down the road.
Repeal of the eighth.
Funding of third-level.
Creating a living wage.
Reform of the Gardaí.
Tackling water charges.
Creating a health system that works.
All of these have been repeatedly kicked down the road.
It’s not good enough – our people deserve better.
The last election demonstrated pretty conclusively that you can vote Independent if you want entertainment from a hurler on the ditch.
And you can vote for extremists if you want non-stop protest and abuse.
But if you want an election that produces a Government, then casting your vote like that is just throwing your vote away.
For the first time I can remember, most TDs in Leinster House do not want to be in Government.
Indeed, some TDs are ideologically opposed to supporting any Government.
Most of them are just waiting for the best timed opportunity to bring the Government down.
And Government is paralysed as a result.
It cannot even bring itself to dislodge the man still standing at the open door – who said he’d leave exactly two months ago.
So, eight weeks ago, I put our party on an election footing.
There is no point pretending this Government might last five years – there’s no chance of that.
So, whenever this cosy little arrangement falls apart, we will be ready.
And as we have seen today, election dates can be unpredictable!
Over the last few weeks, that work has started in earnest.
The policy committee are taking a fresh look at our policy platform.
This weekend, we will launch two new policy projects – one on the future of work, and the other on the greening of Ireland.
We’ve been looking at poster designs, and at fundraising to support candidates, and at all of the other logistics involved in an election campaign.
But there is one thing more important than any other during an election: the strength of our candidates.
And in Dublin South Central and Dublin North West, we have two of the best.
Two local representatives, tackling the challenges facing their communities:
Lack of green space and play space;
Cutbacks in education, in community services and drugs task forces
The scourge of crime and anti-social behaviour.
Two community leaders determined to see their communities make real progress.
By growing Dublin’s thriving economy and supporting small businesses in the community.
By making Dublin a green city with more green spaces, more allotments, better recycling facilities and a commitment to waste reduction.
By ensuring we have a planning system that is led by the needs of the community and not in the interests of developers.
By expanding the City Bike scheme and improving our cycling facilities, our bus corridors and our entire public transport.
By combatting educational disadvantage and ensuring the best healthcare is available to everyone who needs it.
By providing – and not just promising – affordable housing for Dubliners.
And by completing the successful regeneration of Ballymun.
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.
There are some people among the commentariat who would belittle or dismiss local government. And who want to break the link between local and national politics.
As a former councillor myself, I can assure you I am not one of them.
Because, in City Hall or in Leinster House, in the European Parliament or in the weekly clinic, we are delivering the same message, fighting the same fight.
We are campaigning for decency, for justice and for equality in society.
And it is by selecting candidates like Rebecca and Andrew that we continue Labour’s fight.
We need politicians who are committed to implementing, and not just campaigning for, progressive change.
With hard work, with a continuing commitment to progress, and with all of us standing next to them, they will join a much larger Labour team in the next Dáil.
Because people are rapidly getting sick of the politics we are witnessing.
Parties on one side that hold power, but do nothing with it.
Parties on another side who fight for change, but don’t want the power to deliver it.
And only Labour committed to change;
And committed to doing the hard yards to deliver it.
We need Rebecca and Andrew on our Dáil team.