What now for Labour?


Sir, – Robert Dowds’ revisionism on Labour’s role in government unfortunately seems to be the norm in a party that continues to harbor illusions about its conduct in its last government (Letters, March 7).

Let’s be very clear here. The government of which Labor was a part cut the respite grant for carers of disabled people. While it is true that the financial situation was difficult at that time, Labor and its coalition partners chose to target the most vulnerable sector of society while apparently choosing to protect the less vulnerable sectors.

Those of us with vulnerable family members have not forgotten that and a change in leadership will not change that. The media coverage given to Labor far eclipses their level of support from the Irish electorate. For many, the labor movement is just a pressure group for a sector of society that already seems to be very well represented.

If Labor wants to atone for its conduct in its last term in government, it could start by calling out the well-paid permanent health service leadership for its long-standing failure to deliver services to vulnerable citizens and children with disabilities in particular.

When I hear a Labor TD ready to put the needs of children with disabilities ahead of the needs of well-paid senior staff at the HSE and the Department of Health, it might be worth voting for them. – Yours, etc.,

RUARY MARTIN,

Sandyford,

Dublin 18.

Sir, – In an attempt to explain the removal of Alan Kelly as leader of the Labor Party, Jim O’Sullivan attributes it to the former’s involvement with the government from 2011 to 2016 (Letters, March 5). These events preceded Mr. Kelly’s appointment as director by several years. Whether this is also a period of remarkably successful restoration of our public finances must, I agree, be seen as a matter of subjective opinion. But that cannot explain the dismissal of a leader who had only been in office for two years.

I would say the real problem is that the political space once occupied by Labor in Ireland has simply disappeared.

The common opinion is that our recent governments have been centre-right. Looking at their actions though, it’s hard to fathom.

Right-wing politics could be summed up as endorsing low personal or general taxation, a nationalist or pro-military outlook, and support for traditional religious values. And the left takes the opposite positions. Our tax system is one of the most progressive in the world, with about half of income tax paid by 5% of employees. The words ‘nationalist’ and Fine Gael are rarely, if ever, linked. Our recent governments have held referenda, and successfully campaigned in them, on issues totally contrary to traditional religious views. Our lack of significant military spending is a serious and growing concern. And considering all this, Ireland enjoys one of the highest standards of living in the world.

It is difficult in this situation for a man of Mr. Kelly’s intelligence and integrity to agitate strongly against government policies. One could imagine, indeed, if the Labor Party had ruled the country for 10 years and had designed the realities described above, the party would mark them as major achievements. Even when it comes to inequality – private medical insurance and education, for example – we are remarkably cheap and accessible by international standards.

Those who seek to place themselves on the left of our recent coalitions therefore end up adopting very extreme positions, which are probably untenable. Policies to tax only a tiny fraction of the population, and with this dubious revenue stream to correct all social problems, are clearly absurd. This week again, we have seen our MEPs, who present themselves as being on the left, not wanting to vote to condemn the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Credit goes to Labor and Mr Kelly for having the integrity not to descend to such indefensible positions. There are few better places to live than Ireland, perhaps because successive governments have migrated to the positions of socialist and labor parties around the world. You could say that Labor’s job is largely done. – Yours, etc.,

BRIAN O’BRIEN,

Kinsale,

Co Cork.

Sir, – I see Labor had its own Extinction Rebellion last week. – Yours, etc.,

COLM O FATHARTA,

Ratgar,

Dublin 6.

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