Labour must challenge 'vile lies', says Siptu chief
TRADE union leader Jack O'Connor said that Sinn Fein and other political parties on the 'left' who attack the Labour Party have surfed the "benign waves" of a "soft and unquestioning" media.
In an address at a Labour leadership husting yesterday, Mr O'Connor said Sinn Fein and other 'left-wing' parties were defined by what they were against, rather than what they were for.
The general president of Siptu said that the new Labour leadership had to immediately challenge the "vile and slanderous lie" that Labour had reneged on its election promises.
Mr O'Connor said: "It must be confronted head on whenever and wherever it is alleged, now and forever more."
He said Labour had sought a mandate to protect public provision, particularly child benefit and third-level fees.
It was not an impossible objective either, in the light of the fiscal difficulties facing the State, he said.
Mr O'Connor said Labour had set out clearly in its manifesto how it planned to levy a greater contribution on those on top incomes, extending the adjustment period out to 2016 and creating a strategic investment bank to leverage resources and generate thousands of jobs.
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"The inconvenient truth is that it simply didn't get a mandate for these policies.
"Less than one in five voted for Labour and 60 per cent voted for those who guaranteed the better-off that they would be required to contribute little or nothing.
"It is essential that this is addressed because irrespective of the outcome of the next election, the democratic socialist project will continue in Ireland. Electoral setbacks will not destroy Connolly's party, but the perception that it betrayed its voters will."
Mr O'Connor warned the day will come when Sinn Fein and other 'left' parties will be asked to outline their alternative in detail and it will be subjected to the same "ruthlessly rigorous scrutiny and hostility" that the trade union and labour movement is accustomed to.
The political landscape had changed considerably in the past few years, Mr O'Connor added.
Over two successive elections 40 per cent of voters had opted to support parties and individuals standing on 'left' platforms – twice as many as ever before. Despite the recent setback for Labour, this political environment still offered huge potential and was to be welcomed, he said.