Resigning Labour councillor says party too centrally controlled

South Dublin mayor Dermot Looney becomes party’s latest casualty ahead of local elections

South Dublin mayor Dermot Looney: the entire cuts agenda is something I’ve really been opposed to.  Photograph: Bryan O’Brien/Irish Times

South Dublin mayor Dermot Looney: the entire cuts agenda is something I’ve really been opposed to. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien/Irish Times

Wed, Jan 8, 2014, 11:12

South Dublin mayor Dermot Looney said today he was resigning from Labour because of the “cuts agenda” being pursued by the party.

Mr Looney (31), the youngest ever county mayor, also criticised the party for failing to listen to its grassroots, claiming it was too “centrally controlled”.

He is the latest in a long line of Labour councillors to quit the party as a result of the Government’s austerity programme and ahead of this year’s local elections.

“The entire cuts agenda is something I’ve really been opposed to. I think it’s affected vulnerable people in our society the most, ”he told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland programme.

“I think what Labour has done in Government in terms of the cuts which affected elderly and vulnerable people are to be opposed, but also what Labour hasn’t done in Government. It hasn’t really targeted wealthy people with taxation.”

“The Labour Party’s performance in Government is not something I’ve supported. The direction of the part is not something I support.”

“For political reasons, the time has come for me to finish up. The party isn’t for me and I don’t think I’m for the party either.”

Mr Looney, who was elected as mayor of South Dublin in June, was one of just four Labour members who voted against forming a coalition with Fine Gael back in 2011.He will now contest the upcoming local elections as an independent candidate in the Templeogue-Terenure ward.

Asked about the timing of his departure, Mr Looney said he wanted to oversee the council’s budgetary process - which finished in the middle of December - before making his decision.

He said he had informed the other eight Labour councillors in South Dublin of his decision yesterday but none had asked him to resign as mayor.

“Look, it’s something I regret personally because I’m leaving behind friends I’ve made over 10-and- a-half years.”

“What I found is that my energy and my time - and the time and energy of others on the left - over the last couple of years to articulate for different policies or different ideas has gone nowhere. I think the Labour Party is very centrally controlled.”

“If there are others in the party who want to try and develop this that’s up to them,” he said.

Announcing his decision to quit on his website last night, Mr Looney claimed the Labour Party had “abandoned even the most basic of social democratic concerns.”

Responding to the news of Mr Looney’s departure, a Labour Party spokesman said: “In 2011 the people of Ireland put Labour in Government to fix the country. Nobody said it was going to be easy, but it is now clear that we are making real progress.”

“The focus is not on those public representatives who have quit the party. It is on those who have had the courage to stick with it, despite the fact that some very tough decisions have had to be made,” he said.

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