Clonmel councillor resigns from Labour over celebration ‘snub’

Aileen Hahesy

Aileen Hahesy

A Clonmel councillor has dramatically resigned from Labour partly citing the party leadership’s “snubbing” of celebrations he was involved in organising in May to mark the centenary of the party’s foundation.

Cllr Darren Ryan announced his resignation from the Labour Party on Monday night just days before Labour leader Eamon Gilmore, former leader Dick Spring, Labour parliamentary party members, councillors and party activists visit Clonmel for a celebration honouring the establishment of the party in Clonmel in 1912.

The four-hour long centenary celebration in Hotel Minella on Sunday afternoon will include an address by Mr Gilmore, a presentation on the party’s history by Dick Spring and the presentation of centenary pins to Labour party councillors.

Cllr Ryan, who left the Workers & Unemployment Action Group to join Labour in 2005, informed the Labour Party of his resignation at its South Tipperary Constituency Council meeting in Clonmel on Monday night.

He is the second Clonmel Borough councillor to leave Labour in the past year. Cllr Gabrielle Egan resigned from the party in November last year over the Government’s decision to close Kickham Barracks.

In a statement, Cllr Ryan said he would continue to represent the people of Clonmel as an independent councillor on Clonmel Borough Council and South Tipperary Co. Council.

Two weeks ago he announced he would be boycotting the Labour Party’s centenary celebrations planned for December 2 as he had not been consulted about the plans and the Labour Party leadership didn’t attend the celebrations the local party organisation had organised in May when a plaque was unveiled in Clonmel Town Hall. Cllr Ryan was Mayor of Clonmel at the time.

The Labour leadership pulled out of those celebrations because of their close proximity to the Fiscal Treaty Referendum.

In his resignation statement, Cllr Ryan said he didn’t take the decision to resign lightly but found his position in a party that had “lost its traditions and values” to be untenable.

He said Labour has completely turned its back on the very people it claimed to represent and its four founding principles of freedom, equality, community and democracy had not been to the forefront of the party in the decisions it was taking in Government.

“Labour has forgotten its founders and birthplace,” he complained. “Every day I have families make contact with me worrying about how their loved ones are going to be cared for with the cut in home help hours.

“I have students in contact with me who have had to leave college and university because of costs and lack of payment of their grants; I have people in contact with me who are losing their jobs and in fear of losing their homes.

“I come from a working class background and know only too well the strains that are being placed upon families and, I can no longer be a member of a party that is placing huge burdens on homes.”

Cllr Ryan also complained that middle Ireland was continuously being asked to take the burden of pain and Labour seemed to be more interested in bailing out the banks.

The native of Elm Park, Clonmel then turned to the row over the Labour party centenary celebrations.

He recalled that the 100th anniversary of the party’s foundation in Clonmel Town Hall was on May 27 last while he had the great privilege of serving as Mayor of Clonmel.

“The party leadership at the very last minute pulled out of those celebrations despite months of planning and preparation. Now they have decided to visit Clonmel on Sunday, December 2 to celebrate, and are not even visiting that very chamber.

“This is despite the fact that I, as a public representative was not consulted in any way shape or form. I found out through a text message of the planned event for December 2.”

Cllr Ryan took exception to a letter sent out by Mr Gilmore to Labour members telling them “it would be unthinkable of the Party to not celebrate its Centenary in a significant way”.

“To me, this is a huge insult to the members of Labour in Clonmel.

“I worked with the majority of my colleagues on Clonmel Borough Council to get a plaque erected and unveiled on May 27 and the Labour Party snubbed that event,” he continued.

“If they think that this was an insignificant event then shame on them, as that plaque was unveiled to the memory of so many people, who dedicated their lives to the Labour movement not just to the current Party.”

Cllr Ryan concluded his resignation statement by declaring that Clonmel has suffered enough from the Labour Party’s decisions in Government and specifically cited the closure of Kickham Barracks and St Michael’s Psychiatric Unit, which he had pleaded with the party to save.

Labour MEP Cllr Phil Prendergast, who along with Cllr Ryan left the Workers & Unemployment Action Group in 2005 to join Labour, thanked her former colleague for his service to the party and said she regretted his decision to leave.

“I acknowledge it’s a very difficult time to be in government and to by trying to right repeated wrongs. We are not doing everything right but collectively as a party we can do more than making a protest can do.”

She said he was a public representative, who could have gone places but she didn’t see how he could propel himself to the same extent outside of a political party.

She believed the Labour Party leadership were right to cancel its attendance at the centenary celebrations in Clonmel in May to focus all their attention on the Fiscal Treaty Referendum. The celebrations could happen at any time during the centenary year.

Meanwhile, Labour Cllr Bobby Fitzgerald from Carrick-on-Suir, who has also decided to boycott the Labour centenary celebrations on Sunday, said Cllr Ryan’s resignation was deeply regrettable but fully understandable.

I fully endorse his stance on the Labour Party celebrations. The manner in which he and other public representatives have been treated by the Labour Party leadership has been appalling and disrespectful.

“Cllr Darren Ryan is an excellent public representative, who has done a lot of good for the people of Clonmel and also for the Labour Party.

“ I look forward to working closely with him in the future and regret that his decision now leaves the Party with no public representation in the town in which it was formed.

Cllr Fitzgerald declared that the Labour Party has lost its way and needs to go back to its core values and represent the people the party was originally founded for. “It is clear to me that we need real leadership to achieve this and that Gilmore must go,” he said.

A Labour Party spokesperson said Cllr Ryan’s resignation was regrettable.

“However, our focus is more on the 198 Labour Party councillors, in every constituency in Ireland, who remain committed to the Party and we will continue to give them every possible support and assistance in the months and years ahead,” the spokesperson added.