LABOUR members in Limerick have celebrated the foundation of the party 100 years ago with an exhibition at the County Library in Dooradoyle.
Addressing those gathered for the centenary event, Minister Jan O’Sullivan paid tribute to the generations of Labour activists who she said had “in good times and in bad fought to advance the social and economic agenda of the Labour Party”.
“There were individuals and families, such as the Keyes, Kemmys, Leddins, Coughlans, Prendergasts and Lippers who dedicated their lives to the cause of Labour in Limerick. We would not be here this evening to mark 100 years of the party if it wasn’t for their commitment and energy. It is a legacy that we are immensely proud of,” said Minister O’Sullivan.
Former TD Frank Prendergast delivered a lecture on Labour in Limerick from the revolutionary days of the Limerick Soviet to its electoral success in 2011.
Even during the days of the Limerick Soviet, Labour was criticised by others on the left for “selling out” those involved in the shortlived general strike by failing to call for it to be extended nationwide. But others, including the Mayor of Limerick and the powerful Catholic Church had also called for an end to the strike at that time.
“There was a general failure to get national support for the soviet and it can’t all be pinned on the Labour Party,” Minister O’Sullivan told the Leader.
For all the criticisms of Sinn Fein and the United Left Alliance, Labour remained a leftwing party, she said.
“It is very much in the tradition of the other social democratic parties of Europe such as the British Labour Party and the Socialists in France. And like those parties there is a wide spectrum of views, some more to the left and some more to the right, within that. But overall there is the commitment to the core values of equality, democracy and justice - and that remains the case today as much as it did 100 years ago,” she said.
Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein have attacked Labour in recent days over reported proposals to make social welfare recipients pay the property tax through deductions in their benefits.
Minister O’Sullivan said she couldn’t comment in advance of any government decision but said: “Fianna Fail have always been good at taking pot shots. Fianna Fail took €8 off basic social welfare rates and it can’t be forgotten that they are the ones who have got us into this situation where we have no choice but to reduce expenditure.
“Nobody in the Labour Party would want to do that but we are taking no lessons from Fianna Fail on that front,” she said.
The Labour exhibition is currently touring the country but on its brief Limerick stop was augmented with local memorabilia from the Keyes family.
Mayor Gerry McLoughlin was presented with an original menu from 1928 from a dinner hosted by the Limerick Trades and Labour Council to celebrate the election of the first Labour mayor of the city and accepted the rare item on behalf of the Jim Kemmy Municipal Museum.