Majority against semi-State sale


HOWLIN OPPOSED:A MAJORITY of delegates voted against the sale of semi-State assets after rejecting a recommendation by Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin that the matter be referred to the party’s central council.

A motion from the Willie Cremins branch, in Dublin South West, opposed the sale of semi-State assets “under any circumstances” and recalled that the privatisation of the Telecom Éireann network had provided a “brutal reminder” of what could go wrong.

After a show of hands, conference chairman Brian O’Shea agreed to a request from some delegates that the votes be counted and tellers were appointed. The Minister’s proposal was rejected by 158 votes to 152.

When a vote on the actual motion was then called, it was carried by a majority on a show of hands.

Mr Howlin later told The Irish Times he understood Labour’s passion for the semi-State sector. “The reality, however, is that the matter was included in the programme for government, which was supported by 90 per cent of delegates 12 months ago, and negotiations have been ongoing since then,” he added. Labour’s incoming general council would have to reflect on the conference decision, he said.

On Mr Howlin’s recommendation, delegates voted to refer to the central council motions calling for increased taxation rates for those earning more than €100,000.

During a sometimes heated debate on the economy, the Minister clashed with Dublin delegate Tony McDermott, from Donabate, who questioned the renegotiation of the terms of the bank bailout deal. Mr McDermott said the party had made a commitment to the electorate that it would be Labour’s way rather than Frankfurt’s way. “The electorate cannot be blamed for concluding that, so far, it has been Frankfurt’s way,” he said.

Trade union delegates from Unite and TSSA called for an expansionary economic policy.

Frank Barry, of Unite, said people who voted for Labour last year wanted real change and not Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael policies.