Aftermath of Meath East byelection


Sir, – Much has been written and spoken in attempts to explain the ignominious collapse of the Labour Party vote in the Meath East byelection, but as yet I have not heard even one commentator refer to the fact that under his leadership Eamon Gilmore is making it ever more difficult for a practising Catholic to vote for Labour.

Tens of thousands may be emigrating, dole queues may be at record levels, the poor may be shivering in the Arctic-like conditions that overhang the country, yet Labour persists in its crusade to consign the Catholic Church to the dustbin of Irish history. Such fundamentalism is positively frightening.

There can be little doubt that the byelection result was hugely influenced by Labour’s abandonment of the pre-general election promises, yet even the most diehard Labour voters who share the Catholic faith must be asking themselves, in good conscience, can they continue to vote for a party whose leadership holds their faith in such naked contempt. Not alone Catholics, members of the other Christian churches must be asking themselves the same question.

Surely within the Labour Party itself there are Christians who are beginning to wonder whether or not they can remain in a party which is so openly hostile to their faith?

There was a time when its critics used to claim that the Labour Party was the political wing, not of the trade unions, but of the Society of the St Vincent de Paul. How laughable would such a criticism be today. – Yours, etc,


Sillogue Gardens,

Ballymun, Dublin 11.

A chara, – Dermot Ryan of the Labour Party (Opinion, April 3rd) presents his, um, “rose”-tinted views of Irish and Australian politics with a desire for what he perceives as a clear left/right divide in Irish politics.

His solution to Labour’s current decline in support is that it could rebound if it joined with “social democrat-minded Fine Gael TDs and members of Fianna Fáil who may be socially conservative but hold a centre-left view of economics”. He describes Labour as a party of the left and Fianna Fáil as one of the centre right. The difficulty with his handy labelling is that it bears no relation to reality.

If we look at the so-called “austerity” budgets implemented over the past five years, the ESRI found that those implemented by Fine Gael and Labour were regressive, in that they hit the less well off disproportionately, whereas Fianna Fáil budgets hit higher earners to a much greater extent. Labour keep pointing to their (only?) economic achievement in Government of reversing the minimum wage cut; but it should be remembered that it was Fianna Fáil that introduced the minimum wage in the first place.

On the issue of gay rights, which Dermot Ryan raises, Fianna Fáil is in favour of gay marriage and adoption rights for gay couples. Fianna Fáil ministers were responsible for introducing almost all legislative progress in this area; while on a proposal to end potential discrimination against LGBT teachers in schools, Labour voted down the Bill proposed by Fianna Fáil Senator Averil Power last year.

Mr Ryan’s view that Australian politics has a clear historical left/right divide perhaps overlooks that many of the most progressive moves came under Malcolm Fraser’s Liberal Coalitions while his Labour successor, Bob Hawke, pursued right-wing economic policies that would have even made Margaret Thatcher blush.

Most Irish voters today make their decisions on the basis of the recent record and clear policies of parties and politicians, not on romantic notions of left/ right or Civil War divides. I would ask that the next time there is a navel- gazing opinion piece on the Labour Party (a regular Irish Times feature) that it would avoid outdated labelling. Finally, perhaps Mr Ryan might tell us who these “social democrat-minded Fine Gael TDs” happen to be. – Is mise,


Fianna Fail,

The Chase,


Co Wexford.

Sir, – Fintan O’Toole (Opinion, April 2nd), in his analysis of last week’s Meath East byelection, quotes his own published conclusions on Labour’s fate following the February 2011 general election.

However, in January 2011, a matter of weeks before he wrote those comments, he also published an article outlining how he had felt “morally obliged” to stand for the Dáil, but found he wasn’t sufficiently organised to mount a campaign. He concluded that “analysing the world is a lot easier than changing it.”

Fintan O’Toole may disagree with how Labour is performing in Government and he can repeatedly uses his column to say so. But ultimately, he ducked the challenge of trying to change Ireland, while the Labour Party opted to try and fix the mess others left the country in. – Yours, etc,


Island Street, Dublin 8

Sir, – Einstein’s definition of insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”. We have just witnessed proof of this again with Labour’s miserable showing in the Meath East byelection.

The party’s fifth-place finish with 4.6 per cent of the vote was entirely predictable and the only thing that was shocking about it was that people were shocked by it. There is no mystery about this result. Various reasons put forward, such as failure of communication and local factors, are nonsense; there is only one reason – Coalition.

It is the permanent root problem of the Labour Party and it is amazing that in the discussion and analysis since the byelection, Labour TDs and political commentators have managed to avoid using the C word. While it might be true that Labour has broken a lot of its general election promises, it makes no difference. Even if the Labour Party did not make outlandish promises it would have still got 4.6 per cent in the byelection. Broken promises are a symptom of coalitionism

After the 2011 general election Labour had other options other than going straight into coalition with Fine Gael, especially given that Labour had become the second biggest for the first time in its history. One option that should have been considered would have been to have allowed Fine Gael to form a minority government and have offered them a Tallaght Strategy type arrangement for a limited period.

At that point Labour had a great opportunity to change Irish politics, but instead they were like someone who had the winning numbers in the Lotto and then tore up their ticket.

Eamon Gilmore’s leadership of the party is irrelevant, the entire Labour Parliamentary Party is in denial of the party’s true problem. They are akin to first World War generals who sent out their troops to useless slaughter, in this instance electoral slaughter.

What Labour needed was a credible independence strategy. Throughout the party’s 100-year history, it has never had such a strategy and it does not look like it is going embrace it any time soon. Now that is insanity. – Yours, etc,


(Former Labour Party

Member, Galway West),

Clareview Park,