Labour party leadership slammed for pulling out of Clonmel celebrations

Aileen Hahesy and Bernie Commins

Aileen Hahesy and Bernie Commins

A Carrick-on-Suir Labour councillor has condemned the leadership of his party for pulling out of the celebrations planned in Clonmel later this month to commemorate the centenary of the Labour Party’s foundation in Clonmel due to their close promixity to the EU Fiscal Treaty referendum vote.

Cllr Bobby Fitzgerald said he was deeply disappointed at the Labour Party hierarchy’s decision and claimed it was another indication that the Labour leadership was” losing its identity” and was “out of touch” with the party’s grassroots members in not honouring its origins.

He also accused the party leadership of being “pre-occupied with pandering to European interests rather than its core electorate and Labour values”.

The councillor, who represents the Fethard Electoral Area on the Co. Council, launched his scathing attack after local Labour public representatives and activists were informed last week that party leader Eamon Gilmore and the rest of the Labour Party Parliamentary Party had decided not to take part in the Centenary Celebrations planned in Clonmel on the weekend of May 26 and 27 because of the Fiscal Treaty referendum vote the following Thursday, May 31.

It means that a full parliamentary party meeting which was scheduled to take place in Clonmel Park Hotel on Sunday May 27 has been cancelled and Labour Party leader Eamon Gilmore will no longer unveil a specially commissioned plaque in the Town Hall in Clonmel.

The plaque unveiling will still go ahead as well as the opening of an exhibition about the Labour Party at South Tipperary Museum.

South Tipperary Labour senator Denis Landy said the close proximity to referendum which takes place just four days after the Labour centenary celebration weekend, was an issue for the Labour Party.

“I am cognisant of the fact that we will be in the final days of the campaign,” said Senator Landy.

“If the referendum wasn’t happening then it would go ahead as planned. I understand the situation that the country is in and I understand the need of the referendum to pass,” he said, adding that the sovereign and economic recovery of the country is priority.

He conceded he was disappointed because of the amount of work that local members of the Centenary Celebrations Committee had done to prepare for the weekend in Clonmel but said he was a realist and understood the significance of the referendum and the importance of canvassing for a yes-vote.

“There is only one May 27, the date that the party was founded in 1912, so we are going ahead with the unveiling of the plaque in the Town Hall in Clonmel on that day,” he said.

“We will make it as good a weekend as possible,” he said.

As well as the plaque unveiling, the opening of a Labour-themed exhibition at South Tipperary County Musem on Saturday May 26, will go ahead as planned but Minister Brendan Howlin who was originally lined up to officiate will no longer do so.

The original wording for the plaque, which was to state that it was unveiled by Mr. Gilmore in the presence of the Labour Parliamentary Party, will now have to be altered to reflect the changes.

The Labour party leadership’s decision has, no doubt, been a huge embarrassment to the Labour party in South Tipperary and Cllr Fitgerald didn’t hold back in voicing his anger in a statement he issued after the news was conveyed to the party locally last Wednesday, April 23.

He said he was deeply disappointed at the decision of the Labour Party hierarchy to cancel the Labour Party centenary celebrations, which were due to be held in Clonmel where the party was founded by “real leaders” like James Larkin and James Connolly.

“I would seriously question as to whether Labour has forgotten its own constitutional commitment to democratic socialism and to represent the interests of ordinary working class people as they seem to have become pre-occupied with pandering to European interests rather than its core electorate and Labour values.

“It’s another indication that the Labour party leadership is losing its identity, is out of touch with grass roots in not honouring its origins and thereby insulting the founding fathers of the party and its core values, which they stood for,” he added.

Clonmel Labour Cllr Darren Ryan, who is Mayor of Clonmel, was more guarded in his response. He said he was obviously very disappointed with the decision and told The Nationalist he had conveyed his anger and disappointment to the Labour Party leadership.

“However, I do appreciate, respect and understand that the EU Fiscal Treaty is probably one of the most important issues we will have to vote on in this country and I acknowledge that, while it’s unfortunate that the party leadership can’t visit Clonmel on those dates.”

He rejected suggestions that the party leadership’s decision was embarrassing and cited the huge importance of securing a yes vote in the referendum.

He said the national side of the centenary celebrations in Clonmel was just postponed and he had received assurances that the party leadership will visit Clonmel to mark the anniversary at a later date.

Cllr Ryan also said a representative from the Labour Party at a national level will also attend the celebrations going ahead on May 26.

The Nationalist contacted Labour Party headquarters in Dublin for a comment but hadn’t receive any response at the time of going to press.