Labour grassroots rail against Gilmore

Eamon Gilmore was branded “dictatorial” by TDs as a “warning shot” grassroots left-wing group was formed to channel growing discontent within Labour.

Mr Gilmore’s style of leadership came under fire as activists urged a rethink on the party’s austerity policies.

One deputy expressed concern at the top-down nature of the Labour Party.

“There is a feeling that the leadership can be dictatorial, especially over things like the selection of election candidates.

“People who would make very strong candidates are being squeezed out of the process before constituencies can get a chance to decide.

“It’s called democratic centralism, but its more dictatorial than anything.” the anonymous TD said.

Some 150 activists gathered in Dublin at the weekend to give voice to a more left-wing alternative to the leadership stance.

“There was a real mix of people who voted for going into power with Fine Gael and those who voted against it from the beginning.

“This is a warning shot for the leadership really,” another TD said. Unease about the party losing its identity within an economic policy driven along Fine Gael lines was also expressed.

“This was about plan B now that plan A — austerity — is clearly not working. We need to change policy on investment in jobs.

“This group could be like the Labour Left group was in the past in representing grass roots opinion and putting pressure on the leadership to take account of what members really want the party to represent,” a deputy said.

The Labour Left group was a major thorn in the side of Dick Spring when he was leader of the party.

The Labour Membership Forum meeting was intended to give voice to alternative opinions in the party with many believing the leadership had lost its way.

Anger is still simmering among many TDs over the refusal of the party’s ruling executive board to distribute a review into Labour’s patchy general election performance. Some TDs branded the report a whitewash that failed to address key campaign failings which saw Fine Gael come close to governing on its own.

Mr Gilmore has already seen three deputies lose the party whip and go into opposition because of his support for a cuts agenda, with at least one more thought to be considering their position.

Moves to impose swingeing cuts on disadvantaged schools and a poor media presentation by the party have also caused concern among many deputies.

Deputy leader Joan Burton has dismissed talk among some left wing TDs that she may mount a challenge against Mr Gilmore within the next year. Left-wing activists aim to raise their concerns at the party conference in Galway in April.

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