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More from wikileaks February 25, 2014

Posted by Oireachtas Retort in History, Irish History, Irish Politics.
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I have been rooting in wikileaks cables elsewhere but also came across this on the 1976 Labour conference

SUMMARY: The annual labour party conference in limerick (nov 19 – 21) produced no surprises. Brendan Corish was reaffirmed as party leader and his policy of continuing the coalition through the next election won a crushing 6 to 1 victory over a group of left-wing mavericks.

1. The quote moderate unquote leadership thoroughly slapped down the leftists led by David Thornley, Noel Browne and John O’Connell. A motion was passed forbidding any labour member or group to associate publicly with another political party without the prior permission of the administrative council. This effectively prevents the leftists, known as quote the alliance unquote from continuing their quote left alternative unquote dialogue with the official Sinn Féin and communists.

2. Corish gave a lackluster performance, very much in the tradition of Irish political leaders, but it was obvious that his leadership is stronger than ever and he will continue as labor leader unless he voluntarily steps down. Corish promised that he would have very tough conditions for partner Fine Gael before he would agree to coalition. Easily the best speech of the conference was given by dr. Conor Cruise O’Brien, who castigated the Fianna Fáil quote support of the provo demand for British withdrawal unquote as the height of irresponsibility. He also strongly condemned the continued sectarianism in the republic. These positions are not new with O’Brien, but he expressed them with a particularly caustic brilliance.

3. Of the old leadership Jim Tully and Justin Keating were strong and persuasive. Keating, especially, gave a long and convincing defence of the Labour performance in the coalition. Two new stars received considerable attention: new td Brendan Halligan and new party member senator Mary Robinson (a former independent, she joined the party just prior to the conference).

Halligan did little speaking from the floor, but according to a number of sources he was the principal deputy of Corish in managing the conference. He did very well, and everyone was surprised at the smooth handling of dissidents – the 6 to 1 vote for coalition was far higher than expected. Halligan is also very popular with the press. Mary Robinson is somewhat the opposite of Halligan – a fiery orator, rather leftist, and not an organization type at all. If she enters the Dáil in the next election as expected she will make the old guard rather uncomfortable. Already she’s being touted as the quote conscience unquote of the Labour party.

4. The show of unity and tight control was a bit tarnished by rumblings in the trade union ranks over the conduct of the party. The most serious defection from that side was Denis Larkin, head of Ireland’s second largest union (worker’s union of Ireland), who announced that his union would hold a special delegate conference to examine its relationship to the party and coalition. Larkin also flatly warned that the unions would not accept a statutory wages policy.

5. Comment: although the conference was the smoothest and least contentious on record, there is little to indicate that labour has done anything to arrest its slow decline. It slipped to 13.6 percent of the vote in 1973, down from 17 percent in 1969, and the few polls indicate that it has not regained any ground. Unfortunately for labour its constituency tends to blame it more for the current economic woes than the Fine Gael constituency blames the Fine Gael. (fancy that -d5)

The labour party leadership in Ireland has always been a small, rather politically inept group of intellectuals. Unlike the British labour party there is no symbiotic relationship between the unions and their party, and at present union and party leadership seem to be drifting further apart. There is, however, no comfortable place for disaffected labour voters to go. Both of the major parties are conservative and have no historic attraction to Labour. The two tiny left wing parties, official Sinn Féin and the communist, are beyond the pale because of their quote atheist unquote approach which does not go down in this catholic country.

At present it seems that Labour will either stay about the same or perhaps increase slightly in next year’s election, maintaining enough seats to constitute the balance of power. However, labour disaffection could result in a lost election for the coalition if Labour voters show their dissatisfaction by shifting their second preference votes to Fianna Fáil.

I wasn’t aware of these older cables until reading this fascinating LRB piece on Assange. The period released covers Kissinger’s time as Secretary of State and 1973 to 1976 was an equally interesting time here at home. I have compiled what’s there on the McGee case for rabble and will be taking a look at the Sinn Féin split and other matters over the next few days. 

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