Vigorous campaign for Yes vote promised


TÁNAISTE AND Labour leader Eamon Gilmore closed the party conference in Galway yesterday with a pledge to run “a very vigorous” campaign to ensure ratification of the European stability treaty in the referendum.

This was the “next immediate issue”, he told reporters as the conference came to an end, and he would be taking the legislation through the Oireachtas in the coming fortnight.

“We will then be running a very vigorous campaign as a party to win support for that stability treaty and to ask voters to vote Yes on May 31st.”

He was confident that, even where people disagreed with specific Government policies, they would “be able to make a distinction” and vote for the treaty on its merits.

Asked if householders would have to pay for the installation of water meters, he said no decision had been made on this by the Government and no recommendation brought before it.

When it was put to him that the Department of the Environment had said the cost would be borne by the householder, he replied: “There has been no proposals put by the department about the costs of the meters, how that will be costed; no proposals have yet been brought before Government on that, and the Government have made no decision on it.”

Commenting on clashes between household charge protesters and gardaí at the conference centre, Mr Gilmore said the violence was caused by a minority of the demonstrators.

“To be fair, the vast majority of people who came to protest did so peacefully. A minority acted violently, and I condemn that.” He said the organisers of the protest, particularly any Dáil deputies involved, should also condemn it.

In his keynote address to the conference Mr Gilmore said it would take “two more difficult budgets” to get out of the EU-IMF programme and “say goodbye to the troika”.

He was “deeply frustrated” by how slow progress had been in tackling the problem of distressed mortgages. “That is why the Taoiseach and I have taken personal responsibility to drive this agenda forward.”

In a sideswipe at household charge protesters, he said: “‘Don’t Pay’ may sound good as a slogan, and look sharp on a placard. But it is neither smart, nor sensible, nor a solution.”

He also told delegates: “I am proud that after 20 years of tribunals, no wrongdoing has ever attached to the Labour Party.”

On white-collar crime, he said: “We are all frustrated at the slow pace at which the wheels of justice sometimes turn.”

The conference marked the centenary of Labour’s foundation, and British Labour MP and shadow Northern Ireland secretary Vernon Coaker said the party had “provided inspiration to democratic socialist parties across the world”.

“Nowhere is your influence felt more than in my party and the trade union movement in Britain. I hope our two parties will – like our two countries – deepen and develop our special bond in the years ahead,” Mr Coaker said.

In a mainly uncontroversial conference, the party leadership suffered a rebuff when 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.

However, later in the evening Mr Gilmore told delegates the Government would use the proceeds from the sale of State assets “to get the economy moving again”.