Smiles all round as 90pc of Labour Party backs deal
But Gilmore warns of tough task
Published 07/03/2011 | 05:00
THE Labour Party last night voted by an overwhelming majority to go into Government after leader Eamon Gilmore warned of the difficult economic decisions ahead.
Only one TD, Dublin North's Tommy Broughan, opposed the deal with Fine Gael, claiming Labour would end up pursuing the "failed" policies of Fianna Fail and the Greens.
Signing up as the junior coalition partners to Fine Gael would be a "tragic and hopeless error" and leave the party with less than half of its seats at the next election, he claimed.
But despite his appeals, over 90pc of the some 1,000 delegates voted in support of Mr Gilmore and the Programme for Government.
In his opening address to the special delegates' conference in O'Reilly Hall in University College Dublin (UCD), Mr Gilmore said it had been an outstanding election for the party, winning 37 seats, but there was no sense of euphoria or triumphalism because of the challenges ahead.
In going into government, Mr Gilmore accepted there were electoral risks for the party and that it would witness slumps in opinion polls and placards and protests outside their conferences in future years.
"This is no ordinary time. We have never been here before. What we do know is that the Labour Party is strongest when Labour is facing up to challenges and to change," he said.
The party, he insisted, was not built on shying away from tough decisions but from facing up to challenges and the "very difficult" decisions ahead.
"This is a moment that calls on us to be courageous," he told delegates to rapturous applause.
And he insisted this would be no ordinary coalition but there would be "parity of esteem between the parties and a sense of co-decision".
He pledged to bring the country out of the "economic mess" created by Fianna Fail and to restore pride, jobs and hope.
During the debate, which lasted for just under three hours, Siptu chief Jack O'Connor claimed the Programme for Government was the "best of the alternatives available".
One of the party's key negotiators and finance spokeswoman Joan Burton said the party had asked people to vote for change now and not after the next general election.
"Power postponed is not an option the Irish people are likely to warm to," she said.
After the thumping majority vote from delegates, Mr Gilmore said the party understood there would be "difficult days" and there would be days when the party "is not going to be popular".