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Tom Johnson Summer School

Posted on July 06, 2012 at 01:10 PM

Presenting the Thirst for Justice award - Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore; Martin Collins, Co-Director of Pavee Point; Deirdre Hosford, Labour Youth Policy and Education Officer
Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore; Martin Collins, Co-Director of Pavee Point; Deirdre Hosford, Labour Youth Policy and Education Officer

The dust has settled on the centenary year Tom Johnson Summer School, and it was definitely a memorable one; from Eamon Gilmore's historic statement of support for gay marriage, to Joan Burton's defence of the welfare state in a time of austerity, to Brendan Howlin's response to the new deal on bank debt across the eurozone. Organised by Labour Youth and directed by Labour Youth Policy and Education Officer Deirdre Hosford, the school gave Labour members a chance to take a step back and debate the lessons of the Labour Party's first one hundred years, and to discuss future challenges.

The school began on Friday evening with a panel dedicated to Labour history, followed by one of the highlights of the weekend: a keynote address on the history of West European socialism and social democracy by Prof Donald Sassoon. Afterwards, the centenary committee held a reception at the centenary exhibition, which was addressed by historian Paul Daly and the mayor of Kilkenny, Seán Ó hArgáin.

On Saturday, members discussed employment, social justice and austerity, and the future of finance. The conference heard from staff at the National Adult Literacy Agency, and Labour Youth members gave a statement of support for the full rollout plain English policy for Irish public services, as part of the wider public sector reform agenda.

On Saturday evening, party leader Eamon Gilmore delivered his Jim Kemmy address on the relationship between church and state, and gave his public support to gay marriage, calling this the 'civil rights issue of this generation'.

This year's Jim Kemmy 'Thirst for Justice' Award went to Pavee Point for their tireless work to promote and protect the rights of Irish travellers. Accepting the award on behalf of Pavee Point, Martin Collins made a powerful speech, in which he highlighted the difficulties that continue to face Travellers, particularly racism and health inequality. He stressed that these are not just concerns for the Traveller community, but for the wider community, and that there isa real need for political leadership in the promotion of Travellers' rights.

Sunday was dedicated to discussion about the future of Social Europe. The closing speech of the school was delivered by MEP Emer Costello, who gave her support to the introduction of a European Youth Guarantee and called for social investment to be put at the heart of EU budgets.

The feedback was very positive, and there was a new energy among participants to face the next set of challenges. The summer school may be over, but the debates will continue.

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