Speech by Brendan Howlin TD at Dublin Bay North selection convention
27 June 2017
Party Leader and Spokesperson on Foreign Affairs and Northern Ireland
Good evening all.
It’s great to see such a turnout here to support Aodhán.
The last twelve months have not represented Irish politics finest hour.
Having squabbled for 70 days, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael finally came to an agreement.
And we might have thought that some work would begin.
Very quickly, we realised how wrongly placed that hope had been.
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.
And time after time, Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil have kicked important issues down the road.
The baptism barrier in schools.
Repeal of the eighth amendment.
Funding of third-level.
Creating a living wage.
Reform of the Gardaí.
The list goes on. And bluntly, it’s not good enough – our people deserve better.
We have had our own work to do over the last year.
After a bruising few years, we needed a bit of time to pick ourselves up and dust ourselves down.
And that is what we have been doing.
We have agreed a new party constitution.
We have recruited new members, and selected 48 new local area representatives.
We have been rebuilding our party, so that we are ready to play a role in rebuilding our country.
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.
Over the last few weeks, that work has started in earnest.
We are looking at our policy platform with a totally fresh set of eyes.
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.
Tonight, we select our sixth general election candidate.
To date, we have chosen three women and three men.
Young candidates, each of them determined to change the world.
I am delighted that we meet here to selected Aodhán as a Dáil candidate for the Labour Party tonight.
Since he was first elected as a councillor, Aodhán has stood out as a politician of enormous potential.
He has a deep belief that progressive politics can change the world.
And his particular passion for educational disadvantage has always shone through.
Indeed, one of his finest qualities is his authenticity.
You always know when Aodhán is happy with the party – he grins from ear to ear.
Equally, you know when he’s not.
In a good way, he nudges us all to try to make him smile a little more!
If you want proof of his politics, his time as a Minister provided plenty.
Injecting centres, recognition of traveller ethnicity, Polish-Irish relations – none of these issues would ever yield a measurable electoral impact.
But he took them on one by one, and he made a real and progressive difference.
Sometimes, he even does the same with popular causes!
His support for women’s football, for marriage equality and the end of discrimination against LGBT teachers, and for investment in education – each of these comes from the same deep-seated desire for progressive change.
Above all else, Aodhán wants to work to make Ireland a more equal place.
His mission is Labour’s mission.
And to achieve that mission, we need him to win.
A year ago, he might not have received the support from the people of Dublin Bay-North that he deserved.
But, as I have said before, I think as time goes on people recognise the value of politicians of substance.
We need politicians who are committed to implementing, and not just campaigning for, progressive change.
And Aodhán is all of that, all day long.
Being in the Seanad has done nothing to diminish his passion for politics.
He has worked across party lines.
With Lynn Ruane, he published the Controlled Drugs and Harm Reduction Bill 2017.
That Bill was a grown up attempt to shift towards treating rather than criminalising those with drug problems.
As with the best political ideas, it is a compassionate idea, but also one that can yield results.
Depressingly, the Government decided to kick this Bill to touch.
Without checking, I know that he won’t let them keep doing that for very long.
To my mind, Aodhán is a classic Labour Party politician.
Where he sees injustice, he wants to fight it.
And that is why just today he got the approval of the PLP to reintroduce an idea he first proposed a few years ago.
It is a simple idea – to make sure that when young children are enrolled in school, their school attendance is monitored just like that of every other child.
If enacted, it will change the world in a small way.
And that’s no mean feat.
It speaks volumes of Aodhán not only to see so many people here tonight, but to see the quality of the people supporting him.
In 2014, you elected Brían McDonagh, Jane Horgan-Jones and Alison Gililand.
Each one elected for the first time, on one of the toughest days in our history.
With people of their calibre standing full-square behind Aodhán, I know that we can win back our seat.
Aodhán is lucky to have his Labour family.
And you’re all lucky to have him.
But you’re only one of his families.
It’s great to see his Dad Seán here tonight. His Mum Kathleen is always a rock of support for him too.
One of his brothers served our party very well for many years.
And I met his sister Mary when canvassing in Kilburn a few weeks ago – even nine months pregnant, she was still determined to see her local Labour MP elected.
And of course he has Áine supporting him every step of the way.
He has everyone here tonight.
He has everyone in Leinster House.
And he has a wonderful family at home too.
He’s a lucky man in many ways.
I don’t think it’ll be luck that will bring him back to the Dáil though.
With hard work, with a continuing commitment to progress, and with all of us standing next to him, he will win back our seat.
And I have no doubt it will be one of many, whenever that day comes.
Because people are rapidly getting sick of the politics we are witnessing.
Parties on one side that hold power, but do nothing with in.
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.
Only Labour working to build a better future.
The way it always has been.