Labour Party Conference

- Live updates from the Labour Party National Conference in Killarney

Steven Carroll, Fiach Kelly Sat, Nov 30
LIVE: Labour Party Conference

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  • 10:45
    Good morning from the Labour Party National Conference at the INEC in Killarney.
  • 10:48
    Members of the junior Government party have gathered here since yesterday to debate internal matters with the election of a new chair one of the main talking points here in Co Kerry today.
  • 10:51
    Loraine Mulligan, who assumed the role of chair after Colm Keaveney TD left it, and Ray Kavanagh, a long-time party activist, are seeking votes from delegates and a result is expected some time tonight.
  • 10:55
    This is the scene this morning here at the Gleneagles
    This is the scene this morning here at the Gleneagles
  • 10:56
    Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore last night defended Labour's record in Government and said the party had taken on the responsibility of fixing the problems facing the country in March 2011.

    Here's a piece by Political Editor Stephen Collins on Mr Gilmore's opening address.
  • 11:02
    The mood in Labour has lifted somewhat over the last few months and the party has been keen to play up how it has steered the State out of the bailout while managing to protect health, education and social welfare rates. A poll last week put the party at 12 per cent, which has eased some nerves after the most recent Irish Times poll put Labour at a record low of 6 per cent. The party's ministers have insisted the only poll that matters is the Local and European elections next summer.
  • 11:08
    While Gilmore last night insisted Labour was steering Ireland in the right direction, one delegate this morning said he should stop trying to steer Labour altogether.
  • 11:09
    Dublin North West delegate Gerry Kerr called on the Tanaiste to resign because of his failure to deliver on services for the disabled and the “damage caused by broken trust”.
  • 11:10
    Here's a piece by Marie O'Halloran on that and some other goings on from this morning -
  • 11:33
    Members of the Kavanagh and Mulligan camps are lobbying hard for votes in the hotel lobby but there's a cut-off point as you enter the conference centre here
  • 11:33
  • 11:42
    Joan Burton speaking on the main stage now. Says it has been 1,000 days since party members endorsed decision to go into coalition with Fine Gael. Has helped tidy up State's problems but kept true to its values, she says.
  • 11:44
    As the era of the bailout ends and recovery beckons, working families still face challenges, Burton says. Wages have stagnated while company profits have skyrocketed.
  • 11:45
    Recovery must come from the middle and out rather than the top and down, Burton continues
  • 11:50
    "In my view, negotiated wage-led growth is the most viable and effective strategy for economic recovery. It is a strategy that the Labour Party and our colleagues in the trade union movement should put centre stage in the weeks and months ahead. Thank you very much," the Minister adds to finish her speech.

    *light applause*
  • 12:03
    Issue of bullying being compounded by social media and new technology, delegate tells conference. 40 per cent of kids have been bullied before they turn 10.
  • 12:25
    Earlier today, Labour delegate Brian Collins (from Meath East) called for vat reform. He said frozen pizza was being taxed at 0 per cent but bottled water at 23 per cent. A toothbrush and toothpaste carry 23 per cent vat but sugar is 0 per cent.
    Marriage counselling is taxed at 23 per cent but the cause perhaps, lapdancing is taxed at 9 per cent.

    Priorities lads...
  • 12:29
    Ashbourne councillor Niamh McGowan commends party for passing X case legislation and calls for protection of women in cases involving fatal foetal abnormalities.
  • 12:30
    Eoin Holmes, who ran for Labour in the Meath East byelection, has taken to the stage here. Says free GP care plan makes him proud to be a Labour member.
  • 12:32
    Holmes says Meath East experience was "tough" (he finished fifth) but he'd run again as party is doing the right thing in government
  • 12:37
  • 12:40
  • 12:41
  • 12:57
    Delegates now discussing childhood obesity, and how children have to be protected from the "excesses" of some sections of the food industry.  
  • 12:58
  • 13:04
  • 13:08

    "I hadn't solicited any support but it was welcome to get it," says Lorraine Mulligan, candidate for Labour chair, as she asks delegates not to use speeches from the podium to reveal who they are voting for in her contest against Ray Kavanagh.  

    Conference now breaking for lunch.  

  • 13:15

    The pylon issue rumbles on, but Pat Rabbitte warns overhead power lines could lead to higher electricity bills.

  • 13:18
    Waterford Crystal workers protesting over pension rights outside the INEC in Killarney.   
    Waterford Crystal workers protesting over pension rights outside the INEC in Killarney.  
  • 13:22
    Labour conference special on RTE Radio's 'Saturday with Brian Dowling'. Brendan Howlin says Labour will focus on "who really needs the first set of breaks" once the economy recovers fully.
  • 13:51
  • 13:51
    Former Labour chairman Colm Keaveney there
  • 14:12
    One Labour councillor not here today is recently co-opted Wexford man Martin Storey. The former All Ireland hurling winning captain (1996) is now managing his local club Oulart the Ballagh, who face Mount Leinster Rangers at Nowlan Park in Kilkenny tomorrow afternoon in the Leinster Senior Club final. 

    Willie Quinn, a Labour councillor in Borris, Co Carlow, and a selector on the Mount Leinster Rangers books at intermediate level, believes Storey's absence from the Gleneagles this weekend is significant.
    "The fact he's not here shows those Wexford lads are getting nervous," he said. 
  • 14:13
  • 14:19
  • 14:20
    Jan O'Sullivan says: "65% of the investment will support a mainstream local authority house building programme – the largest such investment in many years.  

    "The remaining investment will be reserved for homes for people with a special housing need – people with a disability, people who are homeless and the elderly. This tranche of funding will be invested in projects agreed between the not-for-profit housing sector and local authorities."

  • 14:21

    Ballroom of romance: delegates shunted to INEC ballroom as main hall is readied for Eamon Gilmore's big speech later on. Snow Patrol could be heard during the soundcheck. No political speech would be complete without 'em or one of their soft rock, uplifting cousins like Coldplay.  

  • 14:28
  • 14:34

    Jack O'Connor now speaking on the property tax, and says "we in SIPTU have defended a property tax" as a "core component" of an equitable tax system.

    Mr O'Connor is due to give the warm up speech for Eamon Gilmore tonight, and is geeing up nicely here, talking of "Connolly's party" and criticising the "speculators...the get rich quick brigade".  

    Also has a dig at Fine Gael and "their constituency, the top decile of income earners", which raises a few cheers.  

  • 14:57
  • 14:57
  • 15:00
  • 15:14
  • 15:34
  • 15:34
  • 15:34

    Sniff of a row in the ballroom over motion 69 on gender balance, conference has rejected proposals from Labour's Central Council to change how the executive board is elected. The proposal aimed to promote gender balance.  

  • 15:36
  • 15:37
  • 15:43
    Speaking on Motion 27, which calls on Labour to implement adoption information and tracing legislation, Aoife Carroll, daughter of Minster for Social Protection Joan Burton, says her family has been on "an exciting and emotional journey" in recent years as they traced Ms Burton's birth family. Ms Burton has spoken in the past of her adoption as a child.  
  • 15:48
  • 15:48
    Motion from Labour's Dun Laoghaire branch acknowledging property tax a requirement but unfair in current form is passed. See pic below.
  • 16:09

    The Campaign for Labour Policies group, which has become something of a splinter group opposed to the party's role in govrnment, is holding its own meeting later:

    "We will be holding a fringe meeting during conference. It will be taking place  tomorrow,  Saturday, at  5.30pm  in the  Castle  Suite in the  Lake Hotel, which is a short walk from the INEC  where conference will be taking place. A group of us will be meeting outside the main door of the  INEC at .5.15pm  to go down together."

  • 16:12

    Conference debating whether to stop judges wearing wigs and gowns. One delegate says to a bald speaker: "You'd be in favour of wigs." Ouch.

  • 16:20
    Minister for Communications Pat Rabbitte and Labour TDs, senators and councillors having a behind closed doors meeting on the controversial pylons issue at the moment. Sparks will fly, eh? Eh? We'll get our coats...
  • 16:42
  • 17:45

    Sorry for the break there folks, not much has been happening for the last hour or so but we're back, for a short while anyway.  

    Couple of updates. The pylon meting attracted around a crowd of 100 TDs, senators and councillors. Senator John Whelan said afterwards he was encouraged that Minister for Communications Pat Rabbitte is listening to concerns.  

    And the Campaign for Labour Policies group set off to have their splinter meeting, although the turnout was a little underwhelming. Only five of them marched off. The militant tendency it certainly ain't.  

  • 18:23
  • 18:31
  • 18:32
    We're logging off for a while now, but we'll be back later for the speech and the buildup.  
  • 19:51
    Aaaaaannnnd, we're back. The conference haill is filling up, Eamon Gilmore is due on at 8.30.  
  • 19:56
  • 19:57
  • 20:00
    Parliamentary party members filling up the all-important "doughnut" seats behing Gilmore's podium. Only drawback of having your mug on TV for a half hour: you have to keep the serious face on.  
  • 20:02
  • 20:04
    Sinn Fein also had a recent Ard Fheis in the same venue, the INEC here in Killarney, and they filled up the upper tiers of the conference hall. Upper tiers closed here at Labour.  
  • 20:06
  • 20:09
  • 20:10
    Conference now being shown video commemorating the 1913 lockout.  
  • 20:13
    Joan warming up for Jack O'Connor, who in turn will warm up for Eamon Gilmore.  
  • 20:17
  • 20:19

    O'Connor thanks Eamon Gilmore for this:

    Really laying it on with the speech, rolling sentences building to climaxes.  

  • 20:21


    "We know that this party would be immensly more popular if it left the levers of power to the centre-right..this party chose not to take the easy road."  

  • 20:24

    Here’s a surprise, an FF bashing video replaying Pat Rabbitte lashing Pat Carey on Prime Time. And the nodding dogs video of Dermot Ahern and Noel Dempsey.

  • 20:27
  • 20:32
    Wonder how long into the speech before the Tanaiste mentions Fianna Fail? Here he comes now...
  • 20:32
    Labour rebel Colm Keaveney tweeting about the X Factor - not watching conference so.  
  • 20:33
    Snow Patrol and a few hearty yelps greet him on stage
  • 20:33
    Gilmore: "These are still difficult times. Some of the most difficult in the 95 year history of our state."
  • 20:34

    "It is hard to talk, or even think about the future while we are still coping with the present. Juggling all the pressures to make ends meet. Feeling squeezed on all sides. Still trying to claw our way out of the crisis."

  • 20:34

    "These past few years have been tough and we still have a distance to travel, but for the first time since the crisis began, we can dare to hope again. To face the future and to see a way forward for ourselves, as individuals, as families and as a people."

  • 20:36
    Gilmore says work of Government sometimes sounds very formal and the language of economics can be cold and remote.

    "But really, when it comes down to the essentials, managing a country is not that much different to managing a home or a business. You cannot spend what you don't have."  
  • 20:37

    "Labour always believed that the EU/IMF bailout plan agreed by Fianna Fáil was deeply flawed. It was a plan based on debt, not growth. The loans were too expensive, the conditions too onerous, and there was no plan to create jobs. And yet, without those bailout loans, the country had only five months money left. Five months money to pay for pensions, for wages, for hospitals. We had the money to run the schools until the summer, but no money to reopen them that September - unless we took the Troika loans."

  • 20:38

    "Bit by bit, piece by piece, we renegotiated the EU/IMF programme from within. Cutting the cost of the loans, changing the terms and conditions, putting in place a strategy for jobs. Repairing Ireland’s reputation abroad and reconstructing the programme so that it was as fair as it could be. We ended the bank guarantee. We ended the promissory note. And we liquidated Anglo."

  • 20:39

    Tanaiste says "no-one did more to free our country from the shackles of the bailout, than that great servant of Labour, Brendan Howlin". Would Michael Noonan agree?

  • 20:40
    Tanaiste points out Labour and Fine Gael are different parties. "A lot of our battles have been fought in private and our compromises made in public.  That is in the nature of coalition government."

  • 20:42
    Fine Gael leader (and Taoiseach) Enda Kenny wins a (somewhat muted) round of applause from the Labour audience as Gilmore gives a nod to his pragmatic and honourable approach "in all of the work we do together."

  • 20:43
    On to improving jobs figures and achievements now. Stimulus package needs to bring construction sector back but not to level it reached in boom times
  • 20:44

    Joan Burton gets a pat on the back for work on youth guarantee and says hoe is that no young person under 25 will be out of work, or education and training for longer than a few months.

  • 20:45
    Tanaiste says Africa is a big opportunity for exports and should be viewed in terms of trade rather than aid
  • 20:46

    He says Labour restored the minimum wage, re-instated the systems that protect wage standards.  And (as he told the Irish Times this week) the Government will legislate for collective bargaining rights.  

  • 20:47

    He says the Government has changed the law to give people better options for dealing with unsustainable debts and mortgage arrears, and the personal insolvency service is now up and running.  

  • 20:47
    His hope to cut the burden of taxation on people draws solid round of applause from delegates and a few in press room
  • 20:49
    Praise being heaped on other ministers now. Jan O'Sullivan, Alex White, Kathleen for everybody in the audience.

  • 20:50
    Ruairi Quinn and Pat Rabbitte, who one newspaper today said were on their way out of the Cabinet, given particular backing by their leader
  • 20:50
    A comment about Quinn getting 2,700 classrooms built goes down well with the audience
  • 20:52
    Here come the "Labour achievements" - X-case legislation, Magdalen redress, gender quotas.
  • 20:52
    Same sex marriage "a  referendum we will fight, and we will win, in 2015". Fight the key word given Labour's underwhelming slog on the Seanad abolition campaign

  • 20:54
    Gilmore confirms Alan Shatter will be advertising to recruit new Gardai next week
  • 20:55

    Here comes the joke - "We cannot go back to the politics of the past. No going back to Boom and Bert."

  • 20:55

    "The progress we have made is due to the hard work and the endurance of the people of this country, and I thank them from the bottom of my heart."

  • 20:56

    He comes the climax: "Let us all determine tonight, not just in this hall, but throughout the country, that we will no longer fear the future.  That we will work together for the future.  That we will hope again. And live again.  Ar aghaidh. Ar aghaidh less an obair. Ar aghaidh leis an lucht oibre.  Thank You."

  • 20:57
    Now Gilmore being showered with applause from delegates and hugs from his parliamentary party
  • 21:06
    Here's a swift write off of Gilmore's speech and Jack O'Connor's warm-up address.
  • 21:10
    Ok folks. That's a wrap for tonight. More updates on the race to be Labour chair and a half day of action here in Killarney on tomorrow. Thanks for reading.