Second Labour councillor resigns claiming party is on the 'road to oblivion'

Second Labour councillor resigns claiming party is on the 'road to oblivion'
Brendan Howlin.

The Labour Party has lost a second councillor in a week amid fresh criticism of leader Brendan Howlin.

Cllr Mick Duff, who led calls during the summer for Mr Howlin to resign has today walked away from the party.

The party has struggled for relevance since being booted from office in 2016 when it lost 30 seats in the Dáil.

His decision to resign follows that of his fellow Dublin South West councilllor, Martina Genockey, who despite being promoted heavily by Mr Howlin, felt he should stand down.

Responding to the resignation, a Labour spokesperson said: "After the Drogheda think-in there was a great sense of unity in the Party, so we are sad to see any member leave."

"We regret Mick's decision to resign but wish him all the best for the future," the statement said.

In his letter to Mr Howlin and party General Secretary Brian McDowell, seen by the Irish Examiner, Mr Duff said the appointment of Mr Howlin has had a “detrimental effect” on the party.

“Notwithstanding the democratic deficit involved, the decision by Brendan to insist on his not being elected by the membership at a very minimum prevented the catharsis needed for the Party in the wake of what was a very difficult period in government and a bruising election campaign,” he wrote.

He said the party is heading into oblivion like the SDLP in the North.

“We have learned no lessons from our time in Government and seem hellbent on returning to Coalition as soon as we hear the noble call. Difficult as it is in opposition as a small Party, we could effectively use that time to reorganise, rejuvenate and rebuild,” he said.

“Regaining trust as a Party of social conscience is not easy, but it is a road I hoped the Party would travel. Instead, we hear calls for partnering up with the Social Democrats and the Green Party, bringing Labour into a situation like the SDLP, on a road to oblivion,” he wrote.

“Effective immediately, I am resigning from my position as DSW Constituency Council Chairperson, Central Council member and my membership of the Labour Party. I wish all my former Labour Colleagues, past and present the very best for the future. I intend to remain on as a non-party member of the current South Dublin County Council,” he concluded.

A response from Mr Howlin's office has been sought.

Full statement from Cllr Mick Duff

Dear Brendan and Brian,

The decision by Cllr Martina Genockey to resign as a Labour Party member, Councillor and General Election Candidate has given me a reason to pause and reflect. I was appalled by the fact that a vibrant, genuine, young representative from a Community that the Labour Party was established to represent, would find herself making this decision, speaks volumes.

Over the course of the past two months and leading up to the “Think In” in Drogheda, a group of elected representatives including myself and Martina, were wrongly characterised as partisans in a personality battle about who should lead the Labour Party.

Despite repeated efforts to correct this characterisation and highlight the growing dissatisfaction of a large section of the membership in our constituencies about the future direction of the Party organisation, our standing in the opinion polls and issues around policies and values, we were further accused of trying to destroy the Party or worse still, as only being interested in protecting our seats in the next Local Elections.

The issue of the Parliamentary Labour Party appointing Brendan Howlin as Leader in the aftermath of the 2016 General Election had a detrimental effect on the morale of the Labour organisation. Notwithstanding the democratic deficit involved, the decision by Brendan to insist on his not being elected by the membership at a very minimum prevented the catharsis needed for the Party in the wake of what was a very difficult period in government and a bruising election campaign.

While the Party Constitution allows for the PLP to elect a Leader, two previous Leaders, Pat Rabbitte and Joan Burton were elected by the grassroots. In short, if it was good enough for them, it should have been good enough for Brendan too. The decision not to have an election for Leader was so abhorrent for some members they left the Party in disgust. Others, who might have returned to the Labour Party and given it another chance concluded that the organisational culture had not changed and the opportunity to re-engage with former trusted and valued members was lost.

We needed a nationwide conversation with the membership after the 2016 General Election, to let people state their views, whether palatable or not, learn from past mistakes and get back to basic core values, fighting to eliminate poverty and disadvantage, rebuild trust with our own members and the broader electorate, through robust debate and also engaging with those former elected Labour representatives, Councillors and TDs, who lost their seats in 2014 and 2016, to use their combined knowledge and experience to the best advantage to promote and support those who wished to take up the banner again or those setting out as candidates for the first time. This did not happen, and many constituencies felt isolated and ignored, with no organised support from Party Head Quarters or for that matter, a visit by the Party Leadership. I am sad to say, we have still not addressed this issue, effectually.

We have learned no lessons from our time in Government and seem hellbent on returning to Coalition as soon as we hear the noble call. Difficult as it is in opposition as a small Party, we could effectively use that time to reorganise, rejuvenate and rebuild. Regaining trust as a Party of social conscience is not easy, but it is a road I hoped the Party would travel. Instead, we hear calls for partnering up with the Social Democrats and the Green Party, bringing Labour into a situation like the SDLP, on a road to oblivion.

I joined Labour at the invitation of Pat Rabbitte and enjoyed my journey as a member, Local Area Rep and Councillor. I worked alongside some excellent colleagues and as a Labour Councillor, through my network of Advice Clinics, and representations, have always tried to serve the public to the very best of my ability.

Effective immediately, I am resigning from my position as DSW Constituency Council Chairperson, Central Council member and my membership of the Labour Party. I wish all my former Labour Colleagues, past and present the very best for the future.

I intend to remain on as a non-party member of the current South Dublin County Council.

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