I am announcing today my decision to leave the Labour Party with immediate effect.
On a personal level, this has been a difficult decision. I have been an active member of the party for most of my adult life and given more than ten years service as an activist, officer and, most recently, public representative. In that time I recruited and worked closely with a large number of new members, some of whom have left the party, and others of whom I will leave behind. I have worked in a progressive Labour group on South Dublin County Council and have enjoyed campaigning with many decent activists and representatives over the years.
However, on a political level, it has been clear to me for some time that the Labour Party is no longer for me, nor am I for the Labour Party. Over the last ten years I have done my best to advocate for policies and ideas rooted in the values of the left which brought me into politics. Over the last three, I have been dismayed at the failure of Labour in Government to advance these values and ideas, and am equally concerned at the long-term outlook for these politics in the party.
There is no one individual policy on which I am making a stand; there have been dozens over the lifetime of the Government with which I fundamentally disagree. Labour has kowtowed to Fine Gael’s economic agenda, presided over cuts across the public sector which worst affect those who are vulnerable, and implemented a series of demonstrably regressive budgets.
I have spoken with many local people who voted for me in 2009, or for Labour in the general election, who feel utterly sickened by Labour’s implementation of the austerity agenda. Their views match my own. I stand diametrically opposed to government policy – and by extension that of the Labour Party – in areas as diverse as healthcare, local democracy, housing, state assets and taxation.
I believe that Labour has abandoned even the most basic of social democratic concerns in Government, and my decision to leave is based as much on the direction in which the party is headed as on its record in Government.
While I and others have argued for a change in direction, it is clear these arguments – even when made successfully via structures such as party conference – have had little effect. In my experience, Labour is controlled in effect by a democratic centralism which ensures power in the party is concentrated in the hands of a small few.
One can only rail against the inevitable for so long; in my own case, I have no distance left to run in the Party. Instead, I will be looking to continue a track record as a principled and hard-working Councillor by seeking election in May as an independent candidate in the “Templeogue-Terenure” Local Electoral Area. I will not be joining any other parties or groupings but hope in the future to play a constructive role in working with others on the left at local and national level.