Ireland would have faced a second bailout without Labour in government, Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore declared at the opening of his party’s conference in Kerry last night.
The Labour leader also said the Government would begin the process of strengthening workers rights through collective bargaining in the coming weeks.
Delivering his speech in Killarney, he singled out ministers for praise and said Labour was a party that fixed things.
He also praised the party’s record on reforms in the last two-and-half years and added: “I am determined that this Government and this party is going to fight and win a referendum on marriage equality.”
Speaking on the back of a recent poll which gave the party 12% support, he said Labour members were negotiators. It was “not in the DNA” of the party to walk away from problems, he added. “We did what Labour people always do. We put our hand up. We took on the responsibility, and we got stuck into fixing the problem.”
Mr Gilmore said Ireland would leave the bailout in two weeks time. Three years ago, some 7,000 jobs were being lost every month compared with the 1,200 net new jobs being created every week now. He asked what would have happened if Labour had not gone into Government. “The answer is we would be now be going into a second bailout. With more unsustainable debts, more job losses, less investment, and more cuts.”
He acknowledged members who had gone through difficulties for the party. “It hasn’t been easy for our councillors and senators and deputies to go out and defend the party.”
The Tanaiste said that he recognised what critics said of the party, including Sinn Féin and those from the ultra-left. However, Labour was willing to face up to the difficulties.
He said that the construction sector needed to get moving again and pressure would continue to be piled on the banks to help those in debt.
The party will today vote on a new chairman to replace Colm Keaveney, who resigned earlier this year. Members will also debate a series of motions on health, job creation and political reform before the Tanaiste’s speech tonight.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved