Labour leader Brendan Howlin is flanked by former councillor Tomas Hannon, Jan O’Sullivan plus Cllrs Elena Secas and Joe Leddin Picture: Adrian Butler
LABOUR leader Brendan Howlin has set out plans to at least double the party’s representation in Limerick.
Currently, the party has just two councillors – Elena Secas and Joe Leddin – and one TD in the shape of Jan O’Sullivan.
They were all present, as Mr Howlin, fresh from his first party conference as Labour leader, toured the People’s Park, Limerick rail station, the Hyde Road, and Mungret Park recently.
Ms O’Sullivan said the focus of the visit was to show her leader some of the things the Labour party had done while in government.
With the local elections two years away – but with a General Election possible in the meantime – Mr Howlin said: “I've set a national target of doubling our number of seats. We have 50 councillors nationally. I think it's absolutely feasible to have 100 by the end of the next local election cycle.
"We don't know what will happen between now and then though - probably a general election, I think that's highly likely, and that will change the dynamic somewhat. There could be boundary redraws so it is difficult at this distance to be absolutely prescriptive.”
He added: “We need to move beyond the difficult years we have had. To look to the traditional values of the Labour party, get back to our focus on our core issues like work, ensuring people have a job, ensuring work pays, dealing with the casualisation of work, and looking to what we're good at. Reform, ensuring there is transparency and quality in public administration, and ensuring we have decent public services, investing in health and education.”
While in Limerick, the party leader also opened the door to a possible merger with the Social Democrats.
“There is no ground for a variety of parties in the same political space,” he said.
The fledgling Social Democrat party has just two Dail deputies, and Mr Howlin believes it could be in their interests to converge.
“The Labour party has traditionally been the social democratic party of the country. I would be very happy to talk to our social democratic colleagues, because I think we share a value system. I would like to see us working in tandem, and maybe if that works, to have a merger of parties as we’ve had in the past,” he said.
Limerick TD Jan O’Sullivan, who played a key role when her first party, Democratic Left, merged with Labour, agreed.
She added: “I think in terms of policy, we’re very close to the Social Democrats, and I would be quite happy if we merged. We would be open to it. But for them, they are relatively recently formed, so they may be a little loathe to quickly merge.”
The Labour leader believes the Social Democrats are “practical politicians of the left who want to bring about change, not just talk about it.”
“That’s what differentiates people on the left: those who want to roll up their sleeves and make a difference, and those who want to simply make noise. I think the Social Democrats fall into the category of those who want to make a difference,” Mr Howlin told the Limerick Leader.
Separately, the Wexford TD admitted he is “worried” for the Labour party in Britain, which – if opinion polls are to be believed – are hurtling to a heavy defeat in the forthcoming election.