herald

Wednesday 13 December 2017

Union boss to tackle Tanaiste over water

SIPTU President Jack O'Connor will today take several swipes at Fine Gael as more than 1,000 anti-water charge demonstrators descend on the Labour Party National Conference in Killarney.

Mr O'Connor will use his speech at a Labour fringe event to criticise the jailing of five protesters earlier this month.

He is expected to say that the party should not stand by while individuals are jailed over their decision to protest in a move that will heighten tensions between SIPTU and the Labour leadership.

Water

Mr O'Connor will also call for the water conservation grant, currently set at €100, to be increased.

But the union leader will use his speech to focus on Labour's achievements in government and call on the party to stand independently at the upcoming general election.

His intervention may prove to be significant as party leader and Tanaiste Joan Burton and deputy leader Alan Kelly have this week said they are in favour of some form of pre-election pact.

Mr O'Connor, whose union holds significant sway in the party, will attempt to clearly differentiate Labour's values from those of Fine Gael. He is expected to suggest that Labour has receive a disproportionate level of public backlash compared to Fine Gael and that the party should look towards being part of a centre-left coalition after the next election.

And he will also call on the party to campaign for the abolition of the Universal Social Charge (USC) and the return of free tuition fees.

Mr O'Connor is due to speak at an unofficial party event organised by a fringe group called 'Labour Values'. The group has called on the party to break ties with Fine Gael after the general election.

Distraction

The meeting has unnerved senior party figures who fear Mr O'Connor's presence could prove to be a distraction from the official conference, located just half a mile away.

Meanwhile, gardai estimate that 1,000 anti-water charge demonstrators will descend on the conference this weekend. A number of left-wing groups, including the People Before Profit Alliance, are organising buses of protesters to arrive from Dublin.

Organisers of the protests have sent leaflets to homes in Killarney in a bid to boost turnout.

There is a significant security presence at the conference due to recent trouble experienced by ministers.

During her opening address last night, Labour leader and Tanaiste Joan Burton took a swipe at Sinn Fein.

She listed ten major achievements of Labour in government, which included increasing the minimum wage and protecting the old age pension.

noconnor@herald.ie

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