Tánaiste says he will stick with tasks ahead
Labour leader says he won’t be deflected after three councillors quit in three days
Chairman of Wicklow County Council Jimmy O’Shaughnessy: resigned after 40 years as member of Labour Party. Photograph: Eric Luke
Tánaiste and Labour Party leader Eamon Gilmore has said he will not be deflected from the task of restoring the country’s economic sovereignty by the latest batch of councillors to resign from the party.
The chairman of Wicklow County Council Jimmy O’Shaughnessy yesterday became the third party councillor to resign in three days.
Mr Gilmore said he regretted the resignation of any member of the party but said that in Government difficult decisions had to be made.
“We have had a budget that will take us out of the bailout and 3,000 jobs a month are now being created. The job of work we had to do was to bring us on the road to economic recovery and that is being done,” he said.
Mr Gilmore praised the “overwhelming majority” of Labour public representatives who have stayed with the party while difficult decisions were being made.
Mr O’Shaughnessy, who has been a member of the party for almost 40 years, announced his resignation, citing unhappiness with the recent budget.
Mr O’Shaughnessy’s decision to leave the party follows that of former mayor of Dublin, Councillor Paddy Bourke, and Killarney town councillor Seán O’Grady, who both resigned earlier this week.
Two former Labour Party members on Wicklow County Council, Tom Fortune and Barry Nevin, left the party earlier this year.
The latest defections bring to 25 the number of Labour councillors to resign since the party entered Government although many of them are members of soon-to-be-abolished town councils.
Describing himself as “old Labour”, Mr O’Shaughnessy said he had been trying to speak out “for the last three years but those in the higher echelons of the party keep slapping me on the wrist”.
The decision to leave had not been easy, he said, but the party had broken promises made at the last general election. He particularly cited the loss of the telephone allowance to the elderly and cuts in young people’s dole payments as reasons for his departure.
“I am old Labour and can’t stand over these cuts. I will not join another party and will become an Independent councillor,” he said.
The Labour Party in Wicklow had six of the 24 places on the county council after the last local elections. However, with four of them now gone, and Councillors John Byrne and Conal Kavanagh having announced they do not intend to stand again, the Labour Party will be fielding no existing county councillors in the 2014 local elections.
Seán O’Grady was mayor of Killarney until this summer and a town councillor with almost 40 years experience. He said he had tendered his resignation having stuck with the party as long as he could.
“Senior Ministers are fond of saying they are mitigating what Fine Gael want to carry out. I find the opposite to be the case. Fine Gael on their own would never try out these policies and what we have are more right-wing policies in this Government than any I can remember.”
Mr O’Grady said he had joined the party 12 years ago full of ideals and because it was then a party of principle, but Labour’s participation in Government has eroded its core principles.
He also said he believed a number of other councillors around the country were now considering leaving the party.