Costello Outlines Labour's New Agenda for a New Era
Speech by Senator Joe Costello as Chair of
the Labour Party Policy Commission
at the Labour Party Conference on 1st of May 1999 in Tralee
Comrades, Mayday is an historic occasion for members of the Labour movement worldwide. In 1889, the International Socialist Congress declared that May1st would be International Workers' Day in commemoration of the Haymarket Massacre Martyrs, the four striking workers killed by police during the Mc Cormack Harvester dispute.
Since then the Labour movement has achieved great progress. However, the basic principles that inspired the men and women in 1889 remain at the core of our great movement. The principles of democracy, equality, community and solidarity are as relevant today as they were when they inspired workers across the globe to rise up and demand their rights.
As Chairperson of the Policy Development Commission I have been deeply involved in revitalising Labour's agenda over the past 18 months.
Labour's involvement in Government
between '93 - '97 transformed this country. We drove the policy agenda
of both Governments and Ireland is a better place for it. Child benefit
was increased hugely, massive resources were invested in education,
basic rights such as divorce were introduced, our legal aid system was
overhauled, Michael D. Higgins introduced a revolution in the cultural
life of the nation. I could go on, but suffice to say, we can be
proud of the role we played in Government in this decade. We did
make a vital difference, we changed the face of Irish
However, we must now look to our policies as new challenges emerge on the political agenda. The Policy Development Commission has been undertaking this vital work for the past 18 months and many of our initiatives are being debated at this Conference.
We have proposed radical and
imaginative policy initiatives on trade union recognition, housing, childcare,
the world of work and the semi-state
sector. In the coming weeks innovative discussion papers on Genetically Modified Organisms and Rural Development will be launched. In addition, Labour's Parliamentary Party has a range of radical, far-reaching Private Members' Bills, including legislation on whistleblowers, trade union recognition, amending the Statute of Limitations so that the victims of child abuse can achieve justice through the courts. At the beginning of this Dail session the Labour Party had more legislation on the Dail Order paper than the Government!
Labour's Senate Group have also produced a raft of legislation that is shaking the cobwebs off the upper house. Private Member's Bill's on trade union recognition, family law and protection of shop workers are on the Order Paper.
In addition to individual policy initiatives, the Policy Development Commission is also reviewing the future direction and values of Labour in a rapidly changing world. The seismic developments in socialism, capitalism and globalisation over the past decade demand a restatement of Labour's values. Our policies, must reflect the concerns of workers and their families in our information age society. Our values are constant, but the language and the manner in which we articulate these values to the electorate must be modern, fresh and radical.
For instance, the Commission
is at present examining exciting proposals regarding the concept of citizenship
in Irish society. The Labour Party will
place citizenship at the heart of Irish public life. The actions of disgraced politicians has undermined the role of politics in Irish society. Many people now feel alienated from politics. Our Party has a key role in rebuilding trust among the electorate. We are the Party who never stooped to the brown paper bag culture, we have fought corruption and cronyism every step of the way. We should bring to message to the electorate and hammer home the message that we're not all the same. Labour is different.
This Conference, and the contribution that individual members make is central to the role of the Policy Development Commission. Without the input and support of Labour Party members across the country we could not complete our task. The debate that occurs this weekend is central to the future development of the Party. On behalf of the Policy Development Commission I would like to extend my thanks to each member and branch for their contribution to policy development for the new millennium.
COSTELLO CALLS FOR TRIBUNAL OF INQUIRY INTO DUBLIN - MONAGHAN BOMBINGS
Leader of the Labour
Group in Seanad Eireann, Joe Costello, has supported calls by
the Justice for the Forgotten Group, for a Tribunal of Inquiry
into the Dublin - Monaghan bombings. Senator Costello made his comments as memorial services for the victims of the worse atrocity of the Troubles
were held in central Dublin today.
"I believe that
an independent inquiry into the Dublin and
Monaghan bombings must be established. The appalling
attacks in May, 1974 remain
one of the most brutal atrocities committed during the troubles and the truth behind this carnage must be revealed," stated Senator Costello.
"I welcome the recent
developments regarding the location of the bodies of 'the disappeared'
and the relatives of the victims of the Dublin
Monahgan bombings deserve to be shown the same dignity. The families of victims need to be told the truth about the circumstances of their loved
ones death. The relatives of the disappeared cannot close a devastating chapter in their lives until the bodies of their loved ones are given a
proper burial. Similarly, many of the families of the victims of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings cannot put this appalling atrocity behind them
until the full truth is revealed," continued Senator Costello.
"Recently new evidence
regarding the bombings has been brought into the public domain
by the author, Don Mullan. This evidence raises
questions regarding the identity of the perpetrators of this atrocity and indeed the original Garda investigation into the matter. I welcome the
fact that the Garda file on the bombings has been reopened, however, for the full truth to emerge a Tribunal of Inquiry is necessary," concluded
Labour Party Senator, Joe Costello,
today expressed his concern at the sentences being imposed on foreign drug
couriers by Irish courts. According to Senator Costello, the relatively
light sentences handed down to people convicted of importing huge amounts
of heroin is undermining our fight against drugs. Senator Costello
made his remarks after an English man, convicted of importing £5m
of heroin, was sentenced to six years
yesterday in the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court.
"The details of the drug case before the Court on Wednesday are chilling. The courier sentenced to six years was part of a network that imported huge amounts of heroin into Dublin. In 1998 alone it is estimated that they made 9 or 10 drug runs from Manchester to Dublin. This gang are directly responsible for the destruction of individuals and communities across our city and it beggars belief that a major player in this evil trade received only six years in a Dublin court." stated Senator Costello.
"I am deeply concerned at this
sentencing policy. It sends out a message to British based drugs
gangs that Ireland is 'a soft touch' and that even if a gang member is
caught and prosecuted he will be back on the streets
within a couple of years. It is time for the message to go out loud and clear that anyone caught importing heroin into Ireland, regardless of their nationality, regardless of their role in the drugs network, will receive tough sentences in Irish courts. Too many communities and lives have been destroyed by heroin. Our judicial system must recognise the devastation this drug has caused and impose sentences on traffickers that reflect the seriousness of their crimes. In my opinion a six year sentence for a gang member convicted of importing the largest amount of heroin seized in the State undermines our fight against drugs," concluded Senator Costello.
Labour Senator, Joe Costello, today warmly welcomed the release of Ballyfermot man John Kinsella as part of the prisoner release programme under the Good Friday Agreement. According to Senator Costello, "I have always believed that John Kinsella was an innocent man and was a victim of a gross miscarriage of justice. I am delighted that John's unjust incarceration is now at an end and he can begin to rebuilding his life with his family and friends."
"The Labour Party has always taken a keen interest in the welfare of Irish prisoners abroad. I was part of a Labour Party delegation that made a number of visits to Irish prisoners in Britain in recent years. I made a number of visits to John Kinsella in Full Sutton prison and I was convinced at the outset that John was innocent of any crime," stated Senator Costello.
"Many people have campaigned for John's release over the past number of years and I know that they will be delighted that John is now a free man. I am sure that over the coming months John will consider whether he wants to continue the battle to clear his name and if he chooses to do so he will have my full support," concluded Senator Costello.
Friday 09, April 1999, 12:34 PM
Labour propose more equal treatment of co-habiting couples for inheritance purposes
At present, if a member of a co-habiting couple dies and leaves a property to their partner, substantial Capital Gains Tax are due on the inherited property. In the case of a married couple, no Capital Gains Tax is paid on inheritance.
Raising the matter in the Seanad today, Labour's Joe Costello said,"it is absurd that, in this day and age, co-habiting couples are not recognised in our legal system. Over the past number of years significant changes have taken place in Irish society which are reflected in changing relationships and living patterns."
"I am proposing an amendment to the Finance Bill in the Seanad today which would provide for more equal treatment of couples living together regarding inheritance and the payment of Capital Gains Tax. he Labour Party amendment provides that a couple - whether they are cohabiting partners, a gay couple or family relations - who have been living under the same roof for four years or more, will be exempt for Capital Gains Tax if they inherit property from their deceased partner."
"In my view, this amendment would eliminate inequalities in our system at present, as it recognises the changing nature of Irish society. I believe that the Government should accept this amendment," added Senator Costello.
Wednesday 24, March 1999, 12:50 PM
Senator Joe Costello has come out strongly in support of the Moore Street Fishmongers, whose livelihoods are currently under threat from Dublin Corporation. Senator Costello has urged Dublin Corporation to reverse its decision to refuse to renew the licenses of the traders.
At a meeting with Dublin Corporation Officials tomorrow, Senator Costello will seek a commitment that the fishmongers in Moore Street be allowed to continue their trade and that Dublin Corporation should install whatever hygienic facilities are necessary to ensure the continuation of this age-old tradition. He has also tabled a question to the City Manager to be addressed at the next City Council meeting on Monday week seeking commitments on the future of street-trading in Moore Street.
Senator Costello warned that Dublin Corporation’s actions could be the start of a process of reducing and eliminating the activity of street trading in Moore Street as part of the Millennium plans for the area. “The street-traders in Moore Street are an integral part of Dublin’s heritage, said Senator Costello. “They have worked for years to build up a steady clientele and provide good and reasonably priced food to a large number of Dublin people. In bad times they have also ensured the survival of the Henry Street/Moore Street area as a major commercial centre. It would be a shame if the Millennium were to sound the death knell for this age-old Dublin tradition”
“The public should have the choice of shopping at market stalls, and many people choose to do so rather than purchase these goods in supermarkets. Whereas, modern hygiene standards must be abided by, this should not be incompatible with the concept of street trading. It is the duty of Dublin Corporation to ensure these facilities are available to the traders.
Senator Costello said that he was optimistic that his proposals would be taken on board by the City Council and that the tradition of Molly Malone would continue for generations to come.
The Labour Party’s Senator Joe Costello warns that the recently published report on the future of paediatric services in Dublin endangers the future of the Children’s Hospital at Temple Street and paediatric services for the North-side of the City and adjoining counties.
The recently published “Review of Paediatric Surgery Services” proposes that specialist paediatric services in Dublin should be provided in one central unit at Crumlin Hospital at the expense of the other hospitals.
This Review has been totally rejected by the Children’s Hospital, Temple Street, which has not been adequately consulted on the future of its paediatric department.
“The implications of this report and the failure by the present Government to honour its commitment to relocate Temple Street Children’s Hospital to the site acquired adjacent to the Mater Hospital puts the future of the Children’s Hospital in grave danger. The hospital has provided essential paediatric services for the children of nearly every family in Central Dublin, North Dublin and surrounding counties. Any attempt to run down the hospital service with the intention of closure would be a national scandal”, said Senator Costello.
Senator Costello points out that Temple Street Hospital has the largest accident and emergency attendance of all three Dublin paediatric hospitals.
“An Accident and Emergency Department with 50,000 attending each year, cannot function safely or professionally without a specialist paediatric service,” he said. He also slammed the fact that the North City is clearly losing out in paediatric facilities when compared with the south side of the city.
“There are currently 147 paediatric beds on the North City compared with 300 paediatric beds in the South of the City. Yet in 1998 the Children’s Hospital had well over 100,000 attendances for treatment and admissions for surgery. Any attempt to further reduce the paediatric facilities provided at The Children’s Hospital would be damaging not only for the North-side but for the ability of Temple Street to give the city as a whole a proper paediatric service,” Senator Costello concluded.
14 February 1999
Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, I wish to welcome you here today to the “turning of the sod” ceremony for the North Inner City Community College.
On the 9th of July we signed the contracts with the builders, Cleary and Doyle. True to form the builders were on the site at the beginning of August, immediately after the builders” holidays. So the sod is well and truly turned by now! Indeed, there are great big holes in the ground and the piledriving for the foundations is well under way. However, we had decided that at the earliest suitable moment after the schools reopened in September would celebrate the beginning of the construction of the new college.
We did so for a number of reasons:
Ladies and gentlemen, this college is the vision that many of us involved in education and in community activities in the North Inner City have had for very many years. It is a dream we have had to create a model of educational attainment in a traditional area of educational disadvantage which would break the cycle and open up undreamt of opportunities to the population in the area.
To do this we need you the students to believe in your futures; we need your parents to support us enthusiastically; we need the primary schools to liaise with us; we need the third-level colleges to do likewise; we need the business community to help us to service the college and to provide us with work experience and good quality job placements for our students when they graduate.
Dublin Corporation has an integrated area plan for the development of the North East Inner City. A lot of work and money will go into major projects such as knocking down some of the worst complexes and building new homes for people. The intention is to transform the area. Central to that transformation is the role of this college.
If we succeed then the overall plan will succeed; if we fail then the plan will fail I believe that we will succeed and that the next generation of students who graduate from the North Inner City Community College will go on to further education and to good quality jobs just as readily as their peers anywhere else in Dublin.
Today the Labour Party Senator strongly criticised the Department of Justice for insisting that prisoners in Portlaoise be strip-searched prior to the visit taking place. Senator Costello stated that the prison authorities had never insisted on strip-searching before previous visits. “The authorities are deliberately blocking the visit through their actions”, the Senator said angrily. “ I intend to take the matter up with the Minister for Justice in the morning”, he concluded.
“This Government is presiding over a housing crisis and is parlaysed with inaction” said Senator Joe Costello.
“The number of families on the local authority housing lists throughout the country has nearly doubled in two years from 27,427 in 1996 to 45,838 in 1998 according to a survey conducted by Focus Ireland. The number of people coming on the Housing Lists is dramatically outstripping the number of units of accommodation being funded by the Government.
“In Dublin, for example, the Homeless section is the fastest growing sector on Dublin Corporation housing list. The number of applicants on the homeless list has more than doubled from 700 in 1996 to 1,500 in 1998. These consist of 500 families and 1,000 single people. At the same time the number of housing units available has more than halved in the last two years.
“The same situation is reflected in the health sector where the hospital waiting lists are spiralling out of control and the Minister for Health is reducing the number of beds available.
“It is scandalous that in these times of economic boom and plenty the Government is neglecting the needs of the most vulnerable people in our society by closing hospital wards and leaving thousands of people without homes,” concluded Senator Joe Costello.
Labour Party Senator, Joe Costello, has said that the current debate on LUAS is completely overlooking the transport needs of the people in Dublin’s Northside and said that the installation of the line, whether overground or underground will only lead to upheaval for the people of his constituency. The Atkins consultants were not even asked by the Minister, Mary O’Rourke, to consider a light rail line for the North side while they were asked to consider two lines for the Southside.
“That is disgraceful,” said Senator Costello. “The delays in proceeding with the LUAS project mean that the people of the Northside will have to wait even longer before their public transport needs are fully considered.”
“There is a transport crisis in the northside of Dublin. Despite constant traffic jams and an inadequate public transport system, there is no action underway to counter these problems at a political level”.
If and when LUAS ever gets underway, the people of the Northside will be subjected to increased traffic chaos, without ever having the benefits of a light rail system. Given the level of progress on LUAS, it would seem that the project will not be a possibility for the Northside for at least another decade.”
“Ireland is being hailed throughout the h world for its economic success. Yet if you compare us with any of our EU counterparts, we are one of the very few states which does not operate a direct rail link to and from our national airport and city center.”
“Movement on work to develop a decent transport system for the people of Dublin’s Northside is vital before it becomes impossible to travel in the area. In particular, I put it up to the Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, to respond to one of the most basic needs of his constituents.”
“The proposal by Dublin Corporation to rezone the last parcel of agricultural land in the City for residential development is a bad mistake and a lost opportunity”, said Senator Joe Costello.
“The 105 acres in question stretches from Ashtown to Cabra and lies between the Royal Canal and the River Tolka. It is the last intact river valley in Dublin and is an area of wild beauty and ecological integrity. It would make a wonderful millennium project for Dublin and its citizens. The only millennium projects to date planned for Dublin are ones consisting of bricks and mortar. Dublin deserves at least one “green belt open space” millennium project to mark its commitment to Agenda 21 at the dawn of the new millennium.
“This Millennium Park could have nature trails, a city farm with organic gardens, organic waste composting, a wildlife interpretative centre, a pony club, picnic areas, trekking areas, pathways and playing fields. The River Tolka and the Royal Canal are natural amenities for boating, swimming and fishing.
The long-term benefits to the city and its citizens would be enormous from such a project. The Corporation’s proposal for rezoning is short-sighted and would be of primary benefit to the developers who recently bought this parcel of agricultural land and will stand to make a financial killing if the proposed rezoning goes ahead.
Dublin Corporation should abandon the proposal it plans to present to the City Council tomorrow, Monday 30 November, to rezone the land at Pellettstown and should develop a unique Millennium Park instead,” concluded Senator Costello
Today Senator Joe Costello welcomed the publication of the report of the Commission on a National Minimum Wage. He expressed disappointment that the Commission decided on less than the £5.00 sought by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU), The Dublin Council of Trade Unions (DCTU), the Irish National Organisation of the Unemployed (INOU). Secondly, he expressed disappointment that the Commission decided on a delayed implementation date rather than proposing that provision would be made in the forthcoming budget.
Having debated the issue in the Seanad last week in Labour’s Private Members’ Time and having urged the Tanaiste to speed up the publication of the report, Senator Costello said that he is looking forward to an early debate on the report as promised by the Tanaiste.
“At a time when the Celtic Tiger is rampant throughout the economy making fortunes for the business community it is unfortunate and mean-minded of the Small Firms Association and the Irish Business and Employers’Confederation (IBEC) to reject the proposal out of hand”.
“The worker is worthy of his hire. There are too many employers in the retail and services area, in particular, who are paying their employees peanuts. They must realise that their business profits have been furnished by their employees’ labour and that it took ten years of responsible partnership to make the present boom in the economy possible. It would be tragic if those who benefited most from that partnership were now to threaten its future through greed and avarice,” concluded Senator Costello.
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