Labour Party unveils agenda to mark Dáil centenary

Children’s welfare will be a ‘non-negotiable’ issue, claims Party leader Brendan Howlin

The annual Tom Johnson graveside oration is given by Labour Party chairman Jack O’Connor on Saturday at Clontarf cemetery, Dublin. Photograph: Tom Honan

The annual Tom Johnson graveside oration is given by Labour Party chairman Jack O’Connor on Saturday at Clontarf cemetery, Dublin. Photograph: Tom Honan


The Labour Party has unveiled a democratic programme on the 100th anniversary of the first Dáil.

The original democratic programme was the work of then Labour party leader Tom Johnson and was adopted by the Dáil on its first sitting in 1919, but never implemented.

This programme emphasised the State’s role in delivering children from poverty, and stated that “all rights to private property must be subordinated to the public good and to the public’s welfare”.

Speaking at an event in Dublin to mark the centenary, Labour leader Brendan Howlin said the party would not go into government again unless certain demands were met.

He identified a state-led solution to housing as a priority with an investment fund of €16 billion over five years to build 80,000 homes on public land which must remain in public ownership as a rental stock.

“Anyone who supports Labour at the upcoming local and European elections, and at the next general election, can rest assured that we will not support any government that does not accept our analysis and agree to implement our housing solution,” he said.

He also reiterated the original programme that the “first duty of the Government of the Republic” will be to make provision for the physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing of the children”.

He said it would be “non-negotiable” that the State must guarantee every child a fair start in life.

“Every child must have access to quality healthcare, housing, childcare and nutrition. Primary education must be truly free-of-charge . . . A comprehensive strategy to eliminate poverty and deprivation in childhood must be funded and implemented.”

The third major policy area highlighted by Mr Howlin was climate change but the Labour leader said “we won’t allow working people to be worse off because of necessary changes to our economy. Labour will insist on a just transition that protects people from unfair costs, creates quality replacement jobs and eliminates energy poverty, in line with the approach to climate action proposed by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions”.

At the same meeting former minister for communications between 2014 and 2016 Alex White was selected as the Dublin candidate for the European Parliament elections. He lost his seat in the general election.

Mr White said it is the first opportunity the party will have to face the electorate since 2016. He said Labour had recovered its self-confidence after the battering it took in the 2016 election in which it went from 37 seats to just seven.

Mr White said he hoped that “left and progressive parties” would work together and he named the Social Democrats and the Green Party as parties that had similar values to Labour.

“We are not trying to offend anybody. There is very little that separates us. It makes no sense for us not to have some measure of co-operation between us in terms of transfers,” he said.

“If there is not at least one constructive left seat (in the Dublin constituency) it will be a tragedy.”

Earlier, Labour party chairman Jack O’Connor delivered the annual Tom Johnson graveside oration at Clontarf cemetery, north Dublin where the former Labour leader was buried.

Like Mr White, Mr O Connor called for “the creation of a space for dialogue” involving, Labour, the Social Democrats, left-leaning Independents, and the Green Party.

“It isn’t necessary to merge into a single organisation, but it is essential to see if we can find a basis to co-operate beyond a mere vote transfer pact,” he said.