Thursday, April 12, 2012

Labour Conference preview

Tomorrow I head to Galway for the Labour Party Conference. It promises to be an interesting event as it is the first conference I will have attended with Labour being a party of government and also the first conference where Michael D Higgins will not be in attendance and giving a masterclass in oratory.
Friday evening's session covers the administrative tasks and then debate on Communications, Social, Protection and Political Reform. Of these, the most interesting motion is one from Harold's Cross branch (#25) demanding the restoration of the FOI act and ensuring that NAMA comes under its remit. After all of Gavin Sheridan's efforts to get information from NAMA it would be great to see such a move actually happening.
Saturday morning features Education, Health and Jobs. The first two will be covered before 11 when the RTE cameras will start rolling and a stream of councillors and TDs will most likely be lined up to have their 3 minutes of fame. These motions look to have been carefully selected to avoid any controversy as they almost all state support for creating jobs - who could possibly be against that?
The afternoon session is a whole other kettle of fish. The economy takes centre stage and there are over 30 motions up for debate. There are at least a few that I feel I may end up speaking against, mainly to do with the IBRC promissory notes. There will also be motions taken on internal party organization which are often the most entertaining. One that Dublin South East members may be keenly interested in is #112 supporting the abolition of the Candidate Selection Boards which ended up splitting DSE in two for the selection of candidates for the last general election.
After a break for workshops, the conference reconvenes for the Leader's Speech which this year features David Begg from ICTU as the warm up act. How aligned ICTU and the party still are is a matter for some debate so it will be interesting to see if contradictory positions are taken by the speakers on any topic. Leader's Speech is also televised so the body language and positioning of Eamon vis-a-vis other TDs and Senators will show how united or divided the parliamentary party is to the public. The amount of cheering and clapping (or lack thereof) will also been seen as endorsement (or not) of the party's performance in government by the membership.
Conference winds up on Sunday morning for the hangover sufferers with debate on International, Justice and Environmental issues. The DSE motion that was proposed by the Rathmines Branch (#155) will be taken almost at the end of the session. Rathmines' amendment to the abortion motion (#138) is also scheduled for debate on Sunday morning. The local clergy must be up in arms about our defiling of the Sabbath day! Following the singing of the Red Flag, we'll all pack up and head back home content or disgruntled with the weekend's events.
Of course, the most important part of conference is what happens in the bars, restaurants, corridors and nightclubs. It is a great chance to meet other like-minded people, catch up with old friends and comrades and let one's hair down in a vaguely safe environment. But to take a phrase from another part of my life, what happens on tour stays on tour and so those secrets will be taken to the grave.

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