DECLAN BREE’S RESIGNATION LETTER
Mr John Dunne
East Ward branch
I wish to tender my resignation from the Labour Party.
As you will be aware I have had serious concerns about the direction the Party has taken under its present leadership. In this context, like many Labour Party members in the constituency, I could not in conscience participate in the general election campaign nor could I support the Labour Party candidate in the constituency.
Over 20 months have passed since the Party Leader chose to attack me in the pages of the “Irish Times” on the basis of totally unfounded and false allegations. The record will show that to date he has failed to retract the allegations and apologise.
That Pat Rabbitte chose to make an attack on me in such a public manner on the basis of totally unfounded allegations – and indeed allegations which I read of for the first time in the “Irish Times” on the 6th of September 2005 – was particularly shocking and unacceptable.
Mr Rabbitte wrote ‘in Sligo Cllr Bree used his position as Mayor to stop an accommodation site going into his own electoral ward and sought to put it into the ward of a colleague that already has three such sites.’
However the minute book of Sligo Borough Council will confirm that the only proposal in regard to my ward, the East Ward, was an amendment to the Traveller Accommodation Programme to the effect that a location be sought in the ward for the provision of apartments for newly wed young travellers. The minutes will confirm that I, as Mayor of Sligo, and the other councillors, supported the said amendment.
That Mr Rabbitte would claim that the office of the Mayor of Sligo was abused for personal or political advantage is an allegation that in my opinion cannot be ignored.
In all my years as a political activist and in my 33 years as an elected representative I am proud of the fact – and the record will show – that I have always striven to protect the rights of minorities, whether immigrants, gays or travellers.
In June 2004, after a wait of 30 years, I was privileged to be unanimously elected Mayor of Sligo. To be chosen as Mayor of one’s own native town is a unique honour and in that context I pledged to fulfil my role as first citizen in a manner befitting the position.
During my year in office I carried out my duties as Mayor to the very best of my ability and I particularly ensured that the office of first citizen was not used or abused for personal or partisan political purposes. At the conclusion of my term I can only say that I was overwhelmed at the positive and warm messages of thanks and congratulations I received from all sectors of Sligo society - community groups, chamber of commerce, voluntary organisations – and from every member of the Borough Council regardless of political affiliation.
Never, not even on one occasion during my 12-month period in office, did any citizen of Sligo or any elected representative suggest that I ever abused my position as Mayor of Sligo. Not one citizen or elected representative ever alleged that I used my position as Mayor of Sligo, to stop an accommodation site going into my own electoral ward and sought to put in into the ward of a colleague.
I found it incredulous that seven months after the Borough Council had dealt with the issue of the Traveller Accommodation Programme that Mr Rabbitte would make such false allegations and such serious allegations.
Never in the history of the Labour Party has a Party leader attempted to vilify and smear a Labour Party colleague in such a manner.
Some people have suggested that he was fed incorrect information. However, 20 months have passed since he made the allegations, and to date he has failed to apologise.
With regard to the current election campaign in the constituency I should point out that I bear no personal animosity to the Labour Party candidate Cllr Jim McGarry. He has been active in politics in Sligo for quite a number of years and has his own legitimate political views.
However the record will show that he never shared our values and he consistently voted against Labour at County Council and Borough Council meetings over the years.
Labour Party members have made the point that Cllr McGarry voted time and time again to impose Service Charges while our members and supporters were vigorously campaigning against the charges.
Members have highlighted the fact that Cllr McGarry supported and voted for the Privatisation of the Refuse Service while we were campaigning to retain it as a public service.
Members have highlighted the fact that while we were to the fore in the Anti-War movement in Sligo, Cllr McGarry voted against a motion a calling on the Government to halt US war planes using Shannon Airport.
Party members also highlighted the fact that when we were campaigning and calling on the Government to hold a referendum to insert an article on non-alignment and neutrality in the Constitution, Cllr McGarry voted against such a move.
I also have major difficulties with the ill conceived decision of the Labour Party to enter into a pre-election agreement with Fine Gael. You will recollect that I vociferously opposed this proposal made by the Party leader and I spoke against it at Party Conference. Essentially what the Labour Party under Pat Rabbittes leadership is doing is giving the kiss of life to the party founded by General O’Duffy, rather than seeking to lead a left led government and fighting the general election as a Left party with its own values and with its own independent policies.
It is for all these reasons that I am resigning from the Party and that I cannot bring myself to vote for the Labour candidate in this election.
In fact it is my view that in many constituencies, including Sligo/North Leitrim, the Labour candidates are only being used to ‘sweep up’ Labour votes for Fine Gael.
There are many colleagues in the Labour Party in all parts of the country who I have worked with over the years and whom I admire and it is my intention to maintain contact with them and to continue co-operating with them in my role as a socialist activist and public representative.
As you will be aware I have consulted widely in recent months with activists and supporters and with those who share our values and the great majority are strongly of the view that it is timely for me to resign from the Labour Party.
I therefore tender my resignation.
16th May 2007