Thursday 25 May 2017

Labour's core ideals are needed now more than ever

Carol Hunt is hopeful that the party can regenerate itself and rebuild public trust in a New Labour

Labour has already resigned itself to a very bad election
Labour has already resigned itself to a very bad election
Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore with Minister Joan Burton (left), Lorraine Higgins, Emer Costello and Phil Prendergast at the launch of Labour's local and European manifestos at the Westbury Hotel, Dublin. Picture: Arthur Carron
Carol Hunt

Carol Hunt

EXERCISING my democratic franchise last Friday was a depressing, if not tragic, experience. I wouldn't usually equate a trip to the local polling booth with a Shakespearian odyssey, but bear with me – and I'll explain why I felt a bit like Ophelia did after Hamlet went through his personality change.

I may have mentioned before that I have voted Labour all my life. Why wouldn't I? I come from an aspirational Dublin working-class family who believed in equal education, fair wages for hard work, and that society has a duty to care for the old, the poor, and the vulnerable. I grew up in the Eighties in an Ireland which wasn't very kind to women, children or people who were in any way "different" – an Ireland ruled by white, middle-class, middle-aged Catholic men. I thought Labour – with its internationalist, liberal, tolerant ideology – was the best bet for people like me; people who wanted a more diverse, more equal Ireland and an end to the 'old boy' network.

And I thought right. Since the foundation of the State Labour has provided the country with an intellectual rigour and idealism rarely seen in the plodding, populist policies of Tweedledum and Tweedledee (Fianna Fail and Fine Gael). During the Nineties, in particular, Labour was an important partner in two progressive, forward-thinking governments. We can't say that Labour kept everybody honest – it didn't – but at least Labour managed to keep itself honest, as Eamon Gilmore reminded us last week, tweeting that he was "very proud of all @labour candidates who are running on a corruption-free record in local govt".

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