LABOUR leader Eamon Gilmore is preparing for the party's most radical overhaul in decades -- and is ready to tell 'dinosaur' TDs they will have to change their ways.
Mr Gilmore particularly wants TDs seen as squatting on seats in certain constituencies to make room for fresh talent.
There is already speculation in the party that Labour could start running a slate of two candidates in electoral areas where it has traditionally fielded one.
Such a strategy, while making party incumbents more vulnerable, could also prevent the all-too-common case whereby a faltering Labour candidate, unable to receive intra-party transfers, ends up electing a Fine Gael or Fianna Fail candidate instead.
Labour leader Eamon Gilmore signalled his intention to spearhead "significant internal reform" to party councillors assembled in Kilkenny last week, advisers said.
While Mr Gilmore did not go into detail about the reforms he envisaged, many party councillors -- large numbers of them Dail hopefuls -- left the meeting convinced that he would tackle the log jams that have prevented advancement in the past.
The dominance of strong individuals in many Labour fiefdoms led to a situation whereby the party had the unenviable distinction of holding the oldest age profile in the last Dail.
Senior party advisers conceded to the Irish Independent that Mr Gilmore had signalled his "clear intention" to tackle circumstances whereby the party was harming itself.
Some councillors took this to mean a move to dismantle private election machines so that they can be reassembled for the overall good of the party.
Buoyed by a 3pc gain in party popularity and a rise in his own approval ratings, Mr Gilmore will never have a better chance to make the overhaul than at the start of his leadership.
The changes "would come out of the current review of party structures and practices" overseen by Greg Sparks, and now taking place across the country.
Addressing the South East Labour Councillors Association meeting, Mr Gilmore remarked: "The party that had the courage to change Ireland must now have the courage to change itself. We need to re-organise and strengthen the party, to ensure that we are attracting and welcoming new members, holding on to seats that we have when a public representative retires, and starting to make inroads in those parts of the country where we have only a minimal presence.''
You may have seen on the Labour Youth homepage that I'm the first and only youth candidate to be selected so far by the Labour Party (the full story is here by the way).
A source of pride, fair enough, but a great pity that more young candidates have not got the chance to represent our party so far.
No-one in Labour needs reminding of an ageing parliamentary section, a situation which is somewhat replicated in terms of council and local reps as a general rule.
Before I offend, let's get one thing clear - there is absolutely nothing wrong with those of any age as political advocates. Tony Benn is living, breathing, agitating proof of it. And we have a great many older members of our party - many more radical than their following generations - whose commitment and advocacy have sustained Labour for decades.
But there is a need for the Labour Party to renew itself. As pointed out in a previous post, this doesn't mean Blairite "modernisation." But promoting young candidates who are of and for Labour is most certainly part of a project of renewal, growth and rebuilding.
The past 5 years have seen more activity, more engagement and more politics from younger members of the Labour Party than the previous fifteen. The cliché that Labour Youth is now the conscience of the party is just that, but certainly the youth section have done more to re-assert socialist values in recent times than had been expected from a party which is always at risk of being sucked into the bland whirlpool of spin which is the Irish political centre. And, to continue the water theme, the 'resevoir of talent' spoken about by one prominent activist at the previous selection convention in Terenure-Rathfarnham is, well, overflowing in comparison with other groups.
Eamon Gilmore has spoken at length on the need for new young candidates; in an interview with Christine Bohan in the latest issue of Left Tribune he makes a number of points about renewal in the context of promoting young candidates;
He is enthusiastic, albeit somewhat diplomatically, about the role of Labour Youth in the party, describing it as "crucially important". "The young people joining the Labour party today are going to be the people controlling it in ten years time. I know that there has been - there is always a tendency with political parties that youth wings and the leadership can sometimes be at odds over things. But building the future of the party is going to be a collaboration between
the leadership and the young members."
Having made a point of encouraging younger party members to run in next year's local elections, he acknowledges that it can be difficult for them to challenge older members for seats. However he is adamant that it can be done.
So will the leader and his team live up to the challenge?