The Labour Party could realistically lead a future government in the Irish Republic, its leader Pat Rabbitte claimed today.
The Dublin South West TD told a seminar at the Irish Labour History museum in Dublin celebrating the life of former Labour leader, Brendan Corish, that with Bertie Ahern’s Fianna Fáil shifting increasingly to the right, there was a great chance for his party to make a significant electoral breakthrough.
In a hard-hitting attack on the Fianna Fáil and Progressive Democrat coalition government, he said Labour’s immediate task was to replace the current right-wing government with a centre-left coalition.
“We are an increasingly modernised and open society,” he claimed.
“There is, therefore, a greatly expanded constituency for Labour’s politics and much less interest in the traditional civil war dividing lines.
“At the same time, Fianna Fáil has abandoned its roots and has shifted increasingly to the right.
“The supposed Pauline conversion on the road in Inchydoney was simply a belated realisation that this shift brings with it a political cost.
“The supposed shift to the left, which is nothing more than a slickly packaged One-National Toryism has convinced no one.
“In these circumstances, there is a great opportunity for Labour to make a substantial electoral breakthrough.
“In my view, a Labour-led government is a realisable ambition. This may require more than one election to achieve but it can be done.”
Mr Rabbitte said there were parallels between the 1970s and the current political climate in the Irish Republic.
Democracy, he said, was ill-served by long periods of one party in power.
The Labour leader said his party was embarked on a project to build an alternative and fairer government which could end Fianna Fáil’s long period of power.
He also insisted Labour could serve in government without abandoning its principles and had shown that repeatedly in coalition during the 1970s, 80s and 90s.
“Whether it is the expansion of social protection, the protection of democratic institutions, the search for peace, adherence to fiscal discipline, the promotion of economic growth, the engagement with the European project or the expansion of personal liberty, we have made fundamental contributions to the make-up of modern Ireland,” the Dublin South West TD said.
“Any analysis of the 1992 to 1997 period, for example, will show a record of fiscal discipline, social commitment and a radical programme to enhance personal freedom.
“It was Labour in government that carried through the introduction of divorce, freedom of information, contraceptive rights, equality legislation and gay rights.
“Freedoms which seemed almost impossible at one time but which are taken for granted today.
“The agenda now is to build on those achievements. We must match those greater personal freedoms with collective capacities.”
Mr Rabbitte said the party would aim to deliver in government decent healthcare for all the people of Ireland, better transport, and would seek to control crime and make every community secure.
The economy would be made high-tech, high-value and high-wage, he claimed.
“It would also aim to offer every child the education and nurturing they needed to reach their full potential and enjoy the fruits of economic success and enhanced personal freedom.”