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This document was a pamphlet written by then Labour M.E.P. Brendan Halligan in 1983. It was written as an outline of a possible way forward for the Labour Party in a context where it had been in coalition with Fine Gael previously. It is based on a presentation Halligan made to a Dublin Regional Council symposium in June of that year on the future of the party. Although 23 printed pages it is quite short and can easily be read at one sitting.
The Preface outlines the reasons for his writing the pamphlet. He starts:
The Labour Party is under threat of electoral extinction.
Over the last thirteen years the party’s share of the vote has been halved, its socialism diluted, its ability to develop policies destroyed and its membership decimated.
The main cause of Labour’s decline has been its permanent commitment to coalition with Fine Gael. Arguably it is the only reason. Like manny others I did not always think so. But I do now. The socialism of the Labour Party and its commitment to coalition are inextricably bound up with each other. In present circumstances they are mutually exclusive and the argument that coalition is purely an electoral tactic and essentially has nothing to do with socialism has been proven disastrously wrong by the experience eof the past decade and a half.
Some of what he writes has a particular resonance in the years subsequent to its first publication. For example he references Brendan Corish’s assertion at the 1967 Labour Party Conference that ‘the Seventies will be Socialist’, and notes that…
…today no [Labour] Party leader could proclaim the future to be socialist, no matter how distant the time horizon. The disappearance of a vision in which Labour plays the key role in re-arranging irish political forces is a psychological reality which we all instinctively recognise. It is the true measure of our decline, more accurate than any statistical analysis of our electoral fortunes since then.
Interestingly he also argues that ‘things can only get worse’, in particularly due to ‘the state of Exchequer finances’. And he argues ‘it is quite immaterial that this was caused by the 1977 Fianna Fáil Election Manifesto and the budgetary policy pursued by that Government up to 1981. What is material is that the present coalition has committed itself to eliminating the current budget deficit of one billion pounds in 1982 prices. This can only be achieved by raising income taxes to that amount (the equivalent of increasing income tax by another 60%), or by cutbacks in current expenditure (the equivalent of the entire health service) or by some horrendous combination of both’.
And he continues:
It is obvious the LP cannot avoid the political odium which will attach to these policies. In essence, Labour will preside over the dismantling of the social services it did so much to create…the semi-state is being prepared for dismemberment… by the time they have completed their cutbacks in the social services and the state sector they will have earned life membership of the Thatcher/Reagan Club.
Halligan considers the problems implicit in coalition with Fine Gael and notes the problems of being unable to forge a separate identity. He also noters how this impacts on the ability of the LP to fend off others on the left because of a gap which opens there due to their participation in government. He specifically references the threat of the Workers Party in this respect. Later in the pamphlet he puts forward a number of actions that he believes are necessary for the Labour Party to undertake in order to rework its identity, these being in the short, medium and long term.
It provides an interesting counterpoint with the Labour Left document posted in the Archive some while back. For those curious as to Halligan’s career subsequent to this, wiki provides some background .