LABOUR leader Eamon Gilmore has warned his members that big business will seek to prevent the party getting into government.
Mr Gilmore said the commercial interests that had “propped up Fianna Fáil for so long” would use “every means possible” to block Labour at the next election.
Such a campaign could mimic the “coup” that forced Australia’s prime minister to step aside last month, he claimed.
Speaking at a Labour-organised summer school in Kilkenny, Mr Gilmore told his members: “There is a salutary lesson to be learned from the recent experience in Australia... There, a proposal to tax the mining industry led to ‘a very Australian coup’, when Kevin Rudd was unseated as prime minister following a $100m advertising blitz by the mining companies, aimed against his Labour government.
“A Labour government here should also prepare to be challenged by the commercial interests that have propped up Fianna Fáil for so long.”
Party members would have to display a “willingness to robustly defend our party from attack”, he added.
Mr Gilmore said the next government would inherit a “colossal burden” of a blighted banking system, NAMA, and a massive debt crisis. But the country could not afford another government focused solely on fixing the fiscal and banking crises, he warned.
“The stark fact is that cleaning up this mess will absorb the attention andenergy of the state, political and administrative, for years to come. However, it is equally true that we cannot put our society in the deep freeze while we sort out our economy.” Labour would focus on increasing jobs, introducing universal healthcare, improving the education system, reforming the public sector and tightening up corporate governance, he pledged.
But the speech did not lay out how the party will budget for these commitments – a fact which is likely to further fuel Government criticism of Labour. The Government has repeatedly accused Mr Gilmore of adopting a populist approach rather than spelling out how he would implement the policies he is advocating.
The latest such attack came from Green TD Trevor Sargent last week following Labour’s U-turn on stag hunting. The U-turn saw Labour opposing a ban on stag hunting even though several of its TDs had previously campaigned for one.
“Labour shamelessly sat on the fence throughout the unions’ debate on the Croke Park agreement rather than showing leadership to working people,” Mr Sargent said. “They have shown a muddled view on water charges and now have reneged on a long-term animal welfare policy, all in the hope of garnering a few more votes through a populist point of view.”
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