Labour responsible for ‘real recovery’

Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore delivers his keynote speech at the Labour Party conference at the Johnstown House Hotel in Co Meath at the weekend. Pic: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore has insisted his leadership will not be “on the line” if Labour slumps below 10% in the looming Europe and local elections.

Addressing fears the party is facing severe losses in the twin tests of national opinion in May, Mr Gilmore pointed out Labour was defending a much lower base of 14% in the contests last fought in 2009, than its record 19.4% showing in the general election.

However, some at the party’s national conference expressed concern Labour’s strategy of signalling property tax reductions of up to 15% and further tax breaks for “squeezed families” after the national polls could backfire.

“It is a hostage to fortune aimed at stemming losses in the May polls that could come back to bite us at the general election if we have not delivered on these promises by then,” said one member.

Pressed if his leadership would be in danger if Labour dropped below 10% at the council and Brussels elections, Mr Gilmore said: “No, and I don’t believe it will. The Labour party has an outstanding record in local government and Europe.”

Ahead of an expected Government reshuffle, Mr Gilmore also told RTÉ that he did not feel the average age of Labour cabinet ministers was too old at more than 62.

The Tánaiste used his keynote address to the party’s one-day national conference to try and steady nerves in the run-up to the May poll as he claimed Labour had put the country ahead of its own popularity.

“We will never regret putting the needs of the next generation ahead of the demands of the next opinion poll. You can’t clean up a mess without getting your hands dirty,” he said.

Insisting that Labour had been responsible for creating a “real recovery”, Mr Gilmore said: “Our country and our people have been to hell and back.”

With a return to the money markets in the offing, he said this would be the most important year since the financial crisis began.

In a swipe at Sinn Féin, the Tánaiste said: “We can stick to the task of building recovery and creating jobs and work, or we can put that all at risk by indulging in fairytale economics.”

Taking aim at Fianna Fáil, he added: “We have the choice, of going back to the bad old days, when Ireland was run by a different troika — a troika of bankers, developers, and Fianna Fáil — or we can work together to build a better, fairer, more prosperous and tolerant Ireland.”

The Tánaiste said that when the Labour/Fine Gael coalition came to power, 7,000 jobs were being lost a month, and now 5,000 were being created every month.

He insisted Labour had been key to social reform, such as bringing in X case legislation after a 20-year delay, and promised to work for a yes vote in next year’s referendum on extending marriage rights to same sex couples.

He also expressed alarm at a rise of the far right across Europe claiming that the old “conservative consensus” had failed.

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