Outgoing Labour leader Joan Burton has criticised the new Government for shying away from safeguarding workers’ rights.

Ms Burton described as “tepid” commitments made to a living wage in the programme for government and she warned that failure to strive for greater equality would diminish the gains from economic recovery.

Ms Burton was speaking at a commemoration ceremony at Arbour Hill Cemetery on the 100th anniversary of the execution of James Connolly, one of the 1916 Rising leaders and co-founder of the Labour Party.

“Connolly’s core vision was one of equality and it’s a vision the Labour Party has sought to fulfil from its foundation,” she said. “Connolly’s vision lives and that is crucial precisely because of the many challenges we still must overcome as a country.”

She said the challenges were not just national.

“Globalised problems like inequality, tax avoidance and evasion, the hollowing out of workers’ rights, and the dismantling of individual freedoms need globalised solutions,” she said.

“Moreover, we must be alert to the siren messages now emerging here in Ireland to frustrate legal changes to strengthen workers’ rights in situations such as the clery’s scandal last year, not to mention the tepid nature of any commitent to a living wage in the new programme for government.”

From left: Siptu president Jack O’Connor, outgoing Labour leader Joan Burton, and James Connolly’s eldest grandson, also James.
From left: Siptu president Jack O’Connor, outgoing Labour leader Joan Burton, and James Connolly’s eldest grandson, also James.

Ms Buron quoted Connolly as once saying: “Our defeat... did not in the slightest degree affect the truth of the principles for which we contested.”

“I suspect he and the founders [of the Republic] would marvel at how far we have come in some respects and be immensley fustrated at how far we have to go in others,” she said.

“One hundred years on, there is still so much unfinished business for the party and followers of the inheritance of James Connolly to achieve.”

Earlier, Ms Burton joined fellow Labour members, trade unionists, and representatives of the Connolly family at a service in the nearby Capuchin Friary beside the Capuchin Day Centre which provides hundreds of meals daily and up to 2,000 food parcels weekly to people in need.

During the service, special guest President Michael D Higgins said he believed James Connolly and the founders of the Irish Citizen Army would be saddened to find, 100 years after the rebellion, that there were still “families short of the necessities of life”.

James Connolly's vision for equal society 'still to be realised'

He said the Capuchins had helped those in need in 1916 and he had seen for himself during private visits how they were still doing so.

“We live a fragile existence on this planet and we’re at our best when we care for each other,” he said.

Following the service, the attendance moved to Arbour Hill where a wreath-laying ceremony took place.

Siptu president Jack O’Connor told the gathering it was unfortunate that the 1916 Proclamation’s pledge to “cherish all the children of the nation equally” had still to be realised.


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