SENIOR Labour members in Limerick have defended the party’s record in protecting the vulnerable and welcomed Minister Jan O’Sullivan’s pledge to contest the next general election.
Party chairman in Limerick David Tobin and PRO Dr Gerry Burke praised the Limerick TD’s work as Minister for Housing and said she had the “full support” of members in Limerick and nationally.
They were reacting to recent comments in the Limerick Leader where Labour members speculated that Minister O’Sullivan, who turns 64 later this year, might not seek re-election to the Dail and that the party would have a tough task in retaining its seat in Limerick in 2016.
“Labour unfortunately have been seen as not doing enough to protect the most vulnerable in our society and not fighting hard enough against what are basically the more right-wing policies of Fine Gael,” the source said, citing welfare cuts a huge issue for the party.
But Minister O’Sullivan had countered that any suggestion she would not contest the election was “absolutely untrue”.
“At this point in time I have every intention of contesting the general election,” she said.
Mr Tobin and Dr Burke have issued a joint statement in support of Minister O’Sullivan and of Labour’s record in government.
They have also rubbished “the insinuation by a so-called ‘source’ claiming to be within the party, as reported in the Leader on March 20, that the party had failed to protect the most vulnerable during the economic crisis”.
“In its review of social indicators in Ireland since the economic crisis unfolded, published last week, the international think tank, the OECD, said that well targeted social spending in Ireland had prevented a surge in poverty.
“It has been a very remarkable achievement that - despite the scale of debt the Irish people have been left saddled with by international banking interests and the sudden and massive scale of unemployment that ensued - the social fabric of the country has been maintained and core social transfers to protect the least well off have been not cut. Additionally, pay levels for the lowest paid have been protected by restoring the minimum wage and the re-establishment of the joint labour committees.”
There were “selfish interests on the left and right of the political spectrum that want to bury this extraordinary story of Irish solidarity in order to undermine the whole concept of a social safety net that has been the hallmark of enlightened politics in post-war Europe”, Mr Tobin and Dr Burke stated.
They pointed out that there was “a major electoral battle ahead against the well-organised forces of conservatism for hearts and minds”, describing conservatism as “a flawed philosophy that seeks to keep power, wealth, opportunity and influence in the same few hands in perpetuity”.
“As well as its achievements in preventing the economic collapse from ravaging the social fabric of the country with mass poverty, the policies of the successful Labour Party have contributed to very substantial growth in employment. According to the latest quarterly data from the CSO, there are currently 5,000 jobs being created every month over the last year, a huge turnaround from the 8,000 jobs being lost every month under the previous Fianna Fáil government.”
Both Mr Tobin and Dr Burke also welcomed Minister O’Sullivan’s announcement that she has no intention to depart the political scene.
“She is a great servant of the people of Limerick and an extremely effective Minister for Housing with the full support of the party at both local and national levels,” they stated.