Gilmore says Labour up to task of stabilising Ireland


Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore has insisted the Labour Party is up to the challenge of bringing stability to the country.

In his opening address at the party’s annual conference, which marks Labour's centenary year, Mr Gilmore pledged to help take Ireland back from profiteers and to renew the Republic.

“Our mission has always been to serve not kings nor kaisers, but the people of Ireland,” said Mr Gilmore.

“We have done so with honour, and integrity, and no tribunal of inquiry has ever found otherwise.”

Speaking before some 800 Labour delegates, Mr Gilmore was referring to the recent publication of the final report of the Mahon Tribunal, which found corruption within opposition party Fianna Fail during the 1990s.

He made no reference to Labour’s coalition partner Fine Gael, nor Taoiseach Enda Kenny in his speech.

He said the focus should be on the Irish people and the need to restore a fairer and more progressive nation.

“The Irish people are once more confronted by fundamental needs - the need for good jobs, for secure incomes, for the chance to build a life in their own country,” Mr Gilmore said.

He also praised the party’s success last year, when it was voted back into Government for the first time in about 15 years.

He pointed out that the party now has more councillors, senators, deputies and MEPs than ever.

“And in a moment of great joy and hope, the man who opened our last conference as president of the Labour Party, is today, Uachtarán na hÉireann, Micheal D Higgins,” Mr Gilmore added.

Earlier, Mr Gilmore was forced to defend his deputy leader Joan Burton who has come under fire after reportedly meeting former politician and businessman Denis O’Brien in New York.

She had previously criticised others meeting the controversial figure. But Mr Gilmore said it is ridiculous that ministers and TDs are scrutinised over which individuals they meet or talk to.

“I think we’re getting to the point where Government ministers and public representatives are going to have to go round covered in a cloak lest they meet anybody, or see anybody, or cross the street to anybody,” he said. “I mean, this is getting ridiculous.”

Meanwhile, hundreds are expected to turn up to the second day of the conference tomorrow protesting over turf cutting, the septic tank charge and the controversial household charge.

Ahead of the conference, Minister for Public Expenditure Brendan Howlin defended Labour's decision to go into government after the general election last year, saying the party had done so in order to rescue "a broken economy". The party had known it would cause difficulties and take it out of its "comfort zone", he said.

But Labour had people who would "drive an agenda" and was getting on with the job "in the worst of circumstances".

He said if people were "rational", they knew the best chance of recovery was the current administration. The party would make mistakes, but would engage with its members during the weekend's conference to hear their views and ensure it did even better next year.

A debate on “Jobs, Reform, Fairness” will be broadcast live on RTÉ One television tomorrow from 11am to 1pm.

Mr Gilmore’s keynote speech is to be broadcast on the same channel tomorrow from 8.30pm to 9pm.

Additional reporting - PA