In the week since the local and European elections we’ve had the chance to reflect on our party’s mixed performance at the polls. In the local elections we did well (just under 11% of first preferences cast in the greater Dublin area). Despite the Green surge, and the fact that the Social Democrats were on the ballot paper for the first time, we more than held our own.
In the European Parliament election I was of course disappointed with the outcome. Ciaran Cuffe and his party caught the mood well and they must be congratulated for doing so. Gary Gannon and the Soc Dems brought a different dynamic to the campaign. Down the road it is hard to see how Labour and the Social Democrats can both thrive in an increasingly fractured political landscape. I think we will all have to face up to this fact, and do so in a generous manner.
For my own part I am as committed as ever to our values and principles and I want to work in every way I can to help advance them. I have absolutely no doubt at all that there is an essential place in our city and in our country for a constructive left alternative to the conservative politics that have dominated Ireland for so long.
For the moment I just want to sincerely thank all of my campaign team – Eunan McKinney especially – and each and every member of the party who encouraged and supported me in this campaign. I rejoice in the success of so many of our new councillors, and I urge those who were not successful on this occasion to keep the faith for the battles and opportunities I am certain lie ahead.
Míle, míle buíochas.
My first encounter this morning was with the man at Tara Street who declared “it’s time for a Labour come-back”. A few minutes later a woman told me I was great on the telly the other night and she would vote for me. But she was saddened – to the point of upset – at the apparent lack of interest in the election, especially among young people. I agreed with her that the level of engagement has been mixed. But this woman was genuinely worried that politics has almost “disappeared” – there is so little real engagement on issues that matter.
I was still thinking about what that woman said when I met with Michael and Pat Johnson this evening in Sandycove. I know Michael from my time in RTE. He and Pat were founders of the Dalkey School Project over forty years ago. They had to fight huge opposition then. But through intelligent and dogged persistence they succeeded. It was one of those victories that changed Ireland. When we rejoice in the achievements of this generation – like Marriage Equality and Repeal of the 8th – we shouldn’t forget the brave pioneers and reformers of a previous generation. Michael Johnson (whose father was the war-time journalist and author Denis Johnson) and others like him paved the way for this modern Ireland.
What a day: Tara St DART, walkabouts in Henry St. and Grafton St., media doorstep at Stephen’s Green, Blackrock with Deirdre Kingston, Ballybrack with Carrie Smyth and Denis O’Callaghan, Kilnamanagh with Denis Macken, and finishing up the road from home in Wainsfort Manor, Terenure with Pamela Kearns.
Quote of the day: It’s at the beginning of this post!
The final weekend’s campaigning has come to an end and we are into the final stretch now. A European election is not like any other campaign. There is no point in trying to cover the whole constituency through door-to-door canvassing, though I’ve done a lot with our local election candidates. For example this Sunday morning, I was out with Seana O’Rodaigh, our candidate in Skerries, and her enthusiastic team. Seana was sporting a lovely tan from the sunshine days spent canvassing earlier this week!
It was a busy weekend in the city. On Saturday there was the ‘Raise the Roof’ march (which I attended in support of my old union SIPTU), the Leinster v Munster Pro14 semi-final at the RDS (I was canvassing in Dundrum and Churchtown and sorry to miss), and many local events, fetes and festivals. We called in to the Rathfarnham Parish Fete at the High School on Saturday morning – for yet more tea and cakes and some exceptional book bargains.
I gcomhra le Chormac O’Braonain i gCrois Araild inniu
Down the road the 10th annual Harold’s Cross Community Festival finished up on Sunday afternoon with high-quality live entertainment. We bumped into Cllr. Mary Freehill along with her campaign manager, Cormac O’Braonain who very kindly introduced me – as Gaeilge – to the young women at the Irish language stall. This exceptional festival is organised and managed entirely by local volunteers, including Tony McDermott a former colleague of mine on South Dublin County Council. Tony gave us a fascinating account of the background to the Maypole which was one of the featured attractions in Harold’s Cross Park this afternoon.
Interesting fact: Apparently there were two maypoles in late eighteenth century Dublin, one sited at Finglas and the other at Harold’s Cross. Tony and colleagues borrowed the festival maypole (made entirely from recycled materials) from contacts in Leitrim. Over in Finglas an inaugural Maypole Festival recently took place. Locals recycled and renovated an old mast sourced from a boat in Howth!
Question: does capitalism have to be overthrown before can we tackle climate change?
Some at least of my fellow candidates think so. I respect their view, but I think it is unrealistic. My politics is about reining in the worst excesses of capitalism. That’s why I am for regulation, for State intervention, and for laws that protect the rights of employees. I am for what Joseph Stiglitz has recently described as “progressive capitalism.” I am for social democracy. I do not believe that we will abolish the market. But we definitely need to control it, and we need to recognise the potential of the State as the great progressive force it is in the economy.
Tonight the Environmental Pillar organised a hustings debate, attended by many of the Dublin candidates. The idea came up that climate change could not be tackled without abolishing capitalism. How that can be achieved in the next twelve years (the time everyone agrees we have to deliver radical action on climate change) was not explained.
We must fulfil our commitments on the Paris agreement. This can only be achieved through an enhanced role for the State. But we cannot exclude the private sector; not when you consider the levels of investment required – for example in off-shore wind. And we risk creating despondency amongst a generation of motivated young people if we tell them that progress can’t happen without the revolution.
It was a day that began early at the Red Cow LUAS with Robert Dowds, our excellent candidate in Clondalkin, and former TD. The most engaging experience all day was at Westland Row at teatime. Lots of warm good wishes. Will they translate into votes? Three weeks to go before I’ll know.
Coffee infusion with the boss before the Enviro hustings; Westland Row earlier
The Minister for Education and Skills, today announced that a new primary school for the Goatstown/Stillorgan area is to be established by September 2016.