Wednesday 13 December 2017

Time (and housing) in short supply as fresh faces bid to deliver on promises of revival

Minister Joan Burton and Minister Alex White
Minister Joan Burton and Minister Alex White
Alex White
John Downing

John Downing

JOAN Burton thinks Labour should put more "heart" and less "head" into their approach to government.

It is a pithy and laudable statement. But she and all the other experienced Labour veterans know that they really need to put money in people's pockets if they have any chance of stopping their rapid political decline.

Labour had a rare good day yesterday after a successful internal process delivered new leadership and the promise of some kind of fresh start. Defeated leadership candidate Alex White argued that the membership had taken strength from the five-week election process with internal dialogue improving unity and morale.

Time will tell if that is true in any lasting kind of way. The reality is that the party took a ferocious local and European election kicking six weeks ago. The huge presence of Sinn Fein, and the strength of diverse Independents, means Labour cannot depend on the electoral resurrection they managed in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s after they stumbled out of the political wreckage of unpopular coalitions. It is hard to imagine the Irish political landscape without the 102-year-old Labour Party.

But it was also hard to imagine the country with deserted convents and monasteries and an ageing Catholic clergy rapidly dwindling in numbers. The reality is that no social entity, not least a political party, has a guarantee of continued existence.

Joan Burton needs to take some risks to make Labour look it is in tune with contemporary Ireland and the issues which pre-occupy people. There are strong hints that she will put more women forward and more of the younger generation which is a step in the right direction.

On the issues she will choose to promote, it was very interesting to hear her answer to a question about new priorities yesterday, even before she was declared elected. It was just one word: "housing".

Many Labour supporters, and more importantly potential supporters, will note that in times of past economic troubles, part of the government response has been the provision of more social housing. Any initiatives in that or other sectors will have to be innovative as time is in short supply and lead-in times can be as big an enemy as any other.

Irish Independent

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