Disability activist Dermot Hayes has left The Labour Party having been a member for close to two decades.
Speaking to The Clare Echo, the Corofin native who was nominated against Seamus Ryan for the party’s local election selection for the Ennis Municipal District confirmed he informed Labour HQ the days before the convention that he would not be contesting and that he was leaving the party.
“Friends and people from community organisations, a lot of people have left the Labour Party in Clare, lots of people, there is a very small cohort of people there unfortunately. It has gone away from what I perceived to be the Labour Party when you go back to its foundations in the 1970s when it was strong enough and 92 under Dick Spring we had a couple of great years. When Eamon Gilmore got elected there was great hope, I was at that meeting in Dublin where we agreed collectively all of us that we’d go into Government with gusto, the country was in bad shape but we thought this would change it and obviously things didn’t work out, all the cuts affected people on lower incomes which was tragic while the bankers and millionaires got away with it the people with disabilities, lone parents got cut left, right and centre and the housing crisis emerged. It’s very hard for me as a democratic socialist to hang in and I thought this time around it might make a difference but after talking to my friends and family, I withdrew my name”.
A resident of Ennis since 1974, Hayes admitted “it was a difficult decision. I had built up friendships and sometimes they are great but I had to look at the policies and the people I want to work with, people around social housing, disabilities and community groups, travellers. We’ve got an influx of people from abroad, we’ve a lot of lovely immigrants here in this country and we need to be including them in society, I feel they’re left out and not being included which is very damaging to society in the long run, whether it’s sport or tidy towns we need to be including them and make special provision. I know there’s multiple migrants of different nationalities when you look at the local convent school there’s 42 nationalities there which is great in one way, so much to be learned and enjoyed by that but they need to be included in our society, there is a danger we are going to fracture our society in years to come unless we do something”.
“I saw the light. I’m an optimist by nature so I was giving it a chance but it wasn’t working out for me and I’m relieved I’m gone not to be moving on with the circle. There’s some great Labour Party people but it wasn’t for me, it wasn’t what I wanted”.
A former Chairperson and Secretary of Clare Labour, Dermot is not too hopeful that his now former party will have representation on Clare County Council after May’s local elections. “I can’t unfortunately see them getting elected unless there is some miracle. The sitting councillors are there and it’s very hard to see them being removed, then you have another three or four people coming in, you have the Sinn Féin, the Social Democrats and I’m sure you’ll have one or two more before the election is called”.
Prior to Christmas, he attended the selection convention of the Green Party but stated he will not seek a nomination from another party. “I wouldn’t for another party but I am impressed with the Greens because reality is kicking in and we need to do something on the Green issue whether it is the Green Party that will be able to carry it off I don’t know but definitely we need to do something about the environment, we all know it in our heart and soul, it’s staring us in the face everyday. Collectively will Fine Gael or Fianna Fáil do anything about it I don’t know, Fine Gael’s priorities are based around economics so if it’s good economically they might do something about it, the reality is it’s not a priority for Fine Gael”.
At the age of 14, he first got involved with the Corofin Youth Club, “since then I’ve been involved in community intensely at various levels. I’ve been elected here locally to the Clare Local Development twice, on the ground I’m very active with community organisations locally, disability is obviously very big in my life I’m a founding member of the Disabled People of Clare and the Clare Leader Forum”.
Hayes hinted that he may be run as an Independent candidate, adding “there’s life in the old dog”.