Childers says Labour resignation a tough call

MEP says efforts to make a difference while in parliamentary party failed

Nessa Childers arriving with Liz Mc Manus to the European Parliament election count at Punchestown in June 2009. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times.

Nessa Childers arriving with Liz Mc Manus to the European Parliament election count at Punchestown in June 2009. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times.



MEP Nessa Childers has said any assertion by the Labour leadership that her resignation from the party was not a tough decision was an “outrage”.

Speaking at a meeting of disenfranchised grassroots Labour members in Dublin today, Ms Childers rejected suggestions by party leader Eamon Gilmore and Minister for Communications Pat Rabbitte that staying in Government through tough times was in fact the hard choice.

“I find that an outrage as do other people...the idea that somehow what we have done is not courageous,” she said.

“My question to them is, answer me: is cutting benefits to women and children an act of courage?

“I aim to turn that back on those people and challenge the parliamentary Labour party to say why they are continuing with these policies.”

Ms Childers’ defection – the seventh from the parliamentary party since entering Government two years ago – has refocused attention on a growing sense of antipathy within the organisation toward what many see as self-contradictory austerity policies.

She refused to be drawn on how many more high-profile resignations might come but said she would welcome them only as a “last resort”.

Her address to the meeting of the Campaign for Labour Policies (CLP) group at the Gresham Hotel was broadly welcomed by the 50 to 60 attendees, comprising mainly of councillors, activists and general members.

“Certainly for two years I have banged my head against brick walls trying to make a bit of difference and it has failed. Other ways have to be found,” she told them.

“We are part of a kind of human experiment in which a very sinister centre right agenda all over Europe is being activated by the use of rhetoric and all kinds of political force and economic propaganda to drive wages down and conditions down, to attack public servants, of which unfortunately we seem to be colluding in.”

Those present voted unanimously on two proposals, including a call for a special party conference to discuss the renegotiation of the programme for government.

They also agreed on the creation of a group to examine a six point plan which would form part of those discussions. It includes a suspension of the Croke Park agreement, an increase in the minimum wage, capital programme investment for job creation, a suspension of the controversial property tax and reforms on dealing with the mortgage crisis.

Richie Keane, a member of the Crumlin branch, said he felt the current Labour establishment was a form of “groundhog day” that has brought little in the way of change.

“In the wider discourse in Ireland at the moment there are people that are so dissatisfied with a society that is going down the toilet and there is no alternative,” he said.

“There is an alternative. It is a scorched earth policy at the moment. Opposition politics is all very well but you ask people to invest trust [in Government] and it shouldn’t be so lightly discarded.”