Labour having ‘existential crisis’, Aodhán Ó Riordáin says
Leadership candidate eager to win back younger voters who looked elsewhere in election
Labour TD Aodhán Ó Ríordáin believes the party is having an “existential crisis” and needs to win back younger voters.
Speaking on Friday in Dublin as he launched his campaign to become the party’s next leader, the Dublin Bay North TD said just 2 per cent of 18-24 year olds had voted for Labour in this month’s general election.
“The only more unpopular party was Aontú,” he said. “Either we say they are wrong, or there is something wrong with us.”
Brendan Howlin announced his intention to step down as leader after the party won six seats in the election, one fewer than in 2016, and received less than 4.4 per cent of the first preference vote.
Mr Ó Ríordáin said Labour needs to rebuild its relationship with the public and get people to “trust us again”.
“We cannot do that if we come up with the same answers that we have had for as long as I have been a member of the Labour Party,” he said, adding that the party needed to get “back to basics, work harder, back into communities”.
“Every single Labour representative is in their communities, working hard. But they are hamstrung, I think, by a sense that the public have about our party.
“We are either part of the establishment or we are part of the change. I want people to look at the Labour Party and say they are on my side. I want the Labour Party to be a campaigning party. It is not just about what you are against, but what you are for.”
His rival for the leadership Alan Kelly, a Tipperary TD and former minister for the environment, earlier this week said it was time for the party to go “back to basics” and that he wanted to restore Labour to the “leadership of the left”.
Mr Ó Ríordáin said Labour had suffered “many setbacks in our long history, which have often led to calls to go ‘back to basics’”.
“But, while we’re proud of our roots, we cannot afford to look backwards. We have to grow and develop if we’re to win back trust and confidence and be relevant into the future.”
Asked what distinguished him from Mr Kelly, Mr Ó Ríordáin said he was bringing a different analysis. He said by losing his Dáil seat in 2016 he got an insight into the party’s relationship with the public.
Among those present to support Mr Ó Ríordáin were Louth TD Ged Nash and Senator Ivana Bacik, who both proposed him as a candidate, former TD for Wicklow Liz McManus, former lord mayor of Dublin Andrew Montague and Wexford councillor George Lawlor. Mr Nash said Mr Ó Ríordáin would be “a leader who gets things done”.