Labour offers distinct 'third choice', says Gilmore

 

The Labour Party is a "very distinct third party" with the job of offering the Irish people that "third choice" at every election, party leader Eamon Gilmore said today.

"We are neither Fianna Fáil, nor Fine Gael. We are Labour. We are a very distinct third party."

Mr Gilmore said, however, the party had to organise ¿as never before¿ in order to present that choice.

'But to organise better, we have to change,' he said.

Addressing delegates at the party's national conference in Co Kilkenny, Mr Gilmore said there was a need to expand the meaning of the name of the party and to move away from the traditional identification of Labour as an interest group representing paid manual workers.

'We must go beyond old images of a downtrodden proletariat and smokestack industries - beyond the idea of Labour as interest group representing a particular form of paid manual employment.

"Yes, those are our origins, and we are proud of them. But the context of Labour today relates to work in a much wider sense," he said.

"Labour today applies to those who work for themselves, as well as those who work for employers.

"Labour is not confined to paid work, but applies to those who work at caring - for the elderly, for children and for those with disabilities. Labour is about the priceless work of those who volunteer, who make a contribution through their energy and genius to building our economy and our society. It is about all who contribute to the life of our community."

Mr Gilmore told delegates a report commissioned to examine all aspects of the Labour Party organisation, due to be discussed at the conference today, will not be ready until the full party conference next March.

But he said "considerable progress" had been made.

The 21st Century Labour Commission chaired by Greg Sparks was established by the party's executive committee on foot of a motion passed at last year's conference.

Its membership includes members of the parliamentary party, the constituency organisations, councillors and staff.

"We had set the commission and ambitious timetable, to report on time for this conference. As it turned out, that was not possible. Therefore the report of the Commission will be considered at our full Conference in Mullingar next March," Mr Gilmore said.

"As the name implies, the task at hand is nothing less than developing a blueprint for a 21st century Labour Party. A party that is relevant to, and successful in, contemporary Ireland. Successful in motivating people to join us, successful in winning elections, and successful in improving Ireland."

He said each member could give a "passionate and valid statement" of what Labour meant to them.

"But we must go beyond individual stories. We must, as a party, bring together those individual voices into a common chorus. We must be ready to present the Irish people with a clear and understandable statement of what our party, Labour, stands for in modern Ireland. Not just pertaining to the immediate concerns of today, but to Ireland as it will be between now and 2020 - and indeed beyond."

Mr Gilmore said that common statement must be rooted in common values.

"As the terms of reference state, those values - of equality, solidarity, community, and democracy- are timeless. Our task is to express them in the language of modern Ireland, and to make them relevant in the lives of our people."