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18 interesting motions to be considered at the Labour conference this weekend

The Labour Party is gathering in Killarney today ahead of its conference this weekend. Here’s a taste of what they will be talking about.

Labour leader Eamon Gilmore flanked by the party faithful at last year's conference
Labour leader Eamon Gilmore flanked by the party faithful at last year's conference
Image: Photocall Ireland

THE LABOUR PARTY is gathering in Killarney, Co Kerry today ahead of its 66th national conference which gets under way this evening.

It is the party’s first conference since April 2012 and a lot has changed on the economic, political and its own internal landscape with the defection of councillors, poll drops and poll bounces.

As its own agenda notes, there is a “large volume of business to be transacted” at the conference with a total of 94 motions to be considered tonight, all-day tomorrow and early on Sunday.

The motions have been put forward by different branches of the Labour Party from around the country, some are niche and are unlikely to garner huge support while others will pass easily.

It was reported in The Phoenix recently that 25 critical and dissenting motions have been excluded but of the motions that will be considered we’ve picked out a few that will be of interest.

1. Making CPSE count

Motion 2 calls on the Minister for Education to extend the curriculum and time available for CSPE, that’s Civil, Social and Political Education, in secondary schools and to make it a subject for the leaving certificate.

2. Fee-paying schools

Motion 3 calls on Labour to make relevant changes to government policy to bring an end to the principle of paying  €100 million to 55 fee-paying schools every year as this amount to “educational apartheid”. This has been raised before and is one of those issues that clearly divides the two coalition parties.

3. Young unemployed

Motion 13 calls for Labour to ensure “equality to all unemployed people, regardless of age or disability in accessing services” and is interesting in the context of the Budget measure to reduce benefit paid to unemployed people under 25.

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4. Maternity care

In light of the Savita Halapannavar and Bimbo Onanuga cases, motion 21 calls for the Labour Party in government to carry out a “large scale review of the current maternity services in Ireland”.

5. Medical cards

Motion 22 from the party’s Central Council notes the “changes to the medical card system” and calls for the party to “devise a mechanism” to stop people holding discretionary cards due to a continuing or irreversible disease being “subjected to repeated investigation”. Timely given the ongoing controversy on this.

6. More medical cards

Motion 25 calls on Labour to “examine the possibility” that all persons receiving active treatment for cancer get a medical card.

7. Direct Provision

Motion 29 calls for the party to establish an Independent Commission of Inquiry into the Direct Provision system for dealing with asylum seekers, which has been defended by Alan Shatter but widely criticised elsewhere.

8. Wigs and gowns

Part of motion 33 calls for legislation to be brought forward so that barristers, solicitors, and judges appearing in court shall not wear wigs, gowns, bands, or tabs. The requirement for judges to wear wigs was dropped last year.

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9. White collar crime

Motion 34 calls on the government to legislate for the establishment of a Criminal Assets Bureau-type body to detect and prosecute white collar crime and “appoint an international team” to investigate white collar crime, noting the “difficulties experienced by our judicial system” in prosecuting such crimes in a timely manner.

10. FEMPI fear

Motion 36 calls for the Public Expenditure and Reform Minister Brendan Howlin to repeal the FEMPI legislation, that imposes mandatory pay cuts on areas of the public sector that do not comply with the Haddington Road Agreement, before he leaves office.

The motion notes that the legislation will continue “indefinitely” unless he does repeal it, potentially handing “draconian powers to some future right wing minister”.

11. Labour should be more Labour

Motion 41 calls on Labour Party ministers to be “demonstrably and persistently more assertive” in pursuing Labour policies and values in government and calls for austerity measures affecting the old, poor and vulnerable to be reversed.

12. Protect State assets

Motion 42 calls for the party to adopt a position that “infrastructural assets”, i.e. State assets, will not be sold unless a referendum is held. Again, this is timely given the decision not to sell Bord Gáis Energy this week.

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13. A new backstop

Part of Motion 48 calls for the establishment of National Recovery Fund which would cream off at least 5 per cent of any budget surplus from 2018 onwards and build-up a fund that would be used in the event of the economic recession. Like the National Pension Reserve Fund we used to have.

14. You must vote

Motion 62 calls for Labour to legislate to make voting in all elections and referenda compulsory.

15. Election litter

Motion 63 calls on Labour to introduce legislation that would ban the placing of election posters on utility polls and instead have local authorities designate space where all parties and independents can stick their posters “on an equitable basis”.

16. Replacing property tax

Motion 67 calls on the government to tear-up the property tax and instead introduce a site-value tax.

17. No double-jobbing

Part of motion 74 calls for the amendment of the party’s constitution so that the chair and vice chair shall not be a TD or a Senator and if they are elected as one that they resign from their role.

You’ll remember that Colm Keaveney was a TD outside of the parliamentary party who remained chairman causing some internal difficulties for Labour until he quit the party altogether earlier this year.

18. Big shop, little shop

Motion 94 puts forward an interesting idea to reduce rates for small town centre businesses by placing a “large retail levy on large out of town retailers”.

Pics: Photocall Ireland

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Read: Labour TD says party has ‘ceded too much ground to the right-wing point of view’

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About the author:

Hugh O'Connell

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