Jack O’Connor sets out his aims as new Labour Party chairman

Siptu president says rebuilding public services a ‘red line’ issue

Siptu president Jack O Connor. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Siptu president Jack O Connor. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

 

Siptu president Jack O’Connor says his aim as Labour Party chairman will be to encourage people who left the party to come back and help rebuild it.

Mr O’Connor is standing unopposed for the position of chairman of the Labour Party at its conference in Wexford on Friday.

It is time for people to “stand up and say where they stand” he told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland. Mr O’Connor said he thinks he can bring something to the role of chair given his experience in the trade union movement. When asked if he would support a future coalition with Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin, he said that as democratic socialists Labour would have to speak “to the people closest to us”.

The aim would be to “set out red lines” such as rebuilding public services. “That will entail making difficult decisions. It means there will be no room for populist tax cuts. It means ensuring that the minimum wages equals the living wage.

“We should be prepared to deal with anyone prepared to meet those red lines. We are open to an arrangement which might entail a coalition or supporting a minority government on the basis of agreed policy. If the parties are prepared to agree to those clear red lines.”

However, he said it was not necessary to go into government to have policies implemented.

“It is important that social democrats stick together, but only on the basis of the minimum red lines.”

Asked if he would consider running for the Dáil he said he was not thinking that way and that there were some who would not welcome his arrival if he were to run.

“My job is to encourage people to come back and to rebuild the party.”

Meanwhile former Labour minister Alan Kelly has described Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael as ‘Tweedledum and Tweedledee’ with very little between them.

He was responding to a question on RTE’s News at One about with whom Labour would go into coalition after the next general election. He said that personally he would not be happy to go into coalition with Sinn Féin - ‘there was a long road to go’ before he would contemplate that.

Their policies are “completely irresponsible”,he added.

This weekend’s Labour conference is an opportunity for the party to position itself as the party of the future.

“We put the country first and we suffered politically.

“Labour is not afraid to make the hard decisions. We will do what is best for the country no matter what.”

Mr Kelly added that the party expected the public will engage with the party in a different way after this year.