Labour Party councillors who have jumped ship and resigned should not be allowed to run for the party in the next general election, a senior Cabinet minister has warned.
Just days ahead of the party’s conference in Co Kerry, Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Minister Pat Rabbitte said he believed a political party couldn’t be run without discipline and its members must stick together during difficult times.
“Personally I think you can’t run a party without some discipline and some allegiance to the principles of the party and some solidarity and collegiality when you’re in difficult times”, said the minister echoing Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s “perfectly clear” decision to stop Fine Gael rebel TDs from standing for FG in the next general election.
Mr Rabbitte was referring to over 25-plus councillors, almost ten per cent of the party total, who have walked away from Labour since 2011, many claiming they were disillusioned or citing broken party promises.
Many will fight next May’s local elections as Independents but some may have harboured hopes of successfully re-joining Labour and seeking a general election nomination by 2016.
However, Mr Rabbitte’s comments were criticised by the former Labour Party Mayor of Limerick Gerry McLoughlin who resigned as a Labour Party councillor in May, but remains a member of the party.
He said, while the minister was perfectly entitled to his views, it sent out a clear message.
“It’s now Labour’s way or no way; it’s Pat Rabbitte’s way or no way”, he said.
The clampdown on discipline comes ahead of an expected tension-filled annual conference in Killarney. However, the party will be encouraged by the three percentage point bounce in support in yesterday’s Red C poll with Labour now polling at 12%, a level of support not seen since June.
It appears the party has received some credit for exiting the bailout but, over the past two years, opinion polls have suggested the junior coalition partners have been blamed for severe austerity measures over the past budgets.
Mr Rabbitte admitted the junior coalition partners were unpopular and are still well below the 19% they received in the 2011 general election.
“Eighty-one per cent of the people didn’t vote for the Labour party in the last election but we’re getting at least 81% of the blame. Very difficult to reconcile the two,” said the minister whose party implemented a rage of savage cuts in Budget 2014 including cutting unemployment benefit for under 26s, taking away tens of thousands of medical cards and abolishing the telephone allowance.
However he also admitted, despite 1,000 people emigrating every week, the economy wasn’t creating nearly enough jobs and said, despite the perceived economic uplift, Ireland was still dependent on growth picking up right across Europe.
Yesterday’s opinion poll also showed Fine Gael unchanged at 29%, Fianna fail down 1 at 22%, Sinn Féin down 2 at 15% and Independents/others steady at 22%.
Fifty two per cent agreed the Government had done a good job leading Ireland out of the bailout, but a massive 74% felt the exit wouldn’t make any difference to their lives and 73% wanted austerity to be eased.
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