Alan Mangan, Labour Dáil Candidate for Longford / Westmeath addressing the party's national conference in Mullingar
Former Westmeath football star, Alan Mangan, is the candidate Labour are pinning their hopes on to cling on to the Longford / Westmeath Dáil seat of Willie Penrose, a TD since 1992, who won't be seeking re-election.
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Addressing Labour's National Conference in Mullingar, said he was honoured, 'as the man who is seeking to replace the great Willie Penrose', to welcome delegates to the home of the 2020 Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann.
Mr Mangan stressed that Labour, for 107 years, has been the voice of people who care and that the party must make that voice heard.
He began his address by paying tribute to Willie Penrose.
"Willie Penrose has served this constituency and the Labour Party with distinction since the age of 13 as branch secretary, as county councillor from 1985 and as TD for this area from 1992 until the present.
"His lifetime of public service has been one of dedication, honesty, huge energy, endless compassion, and a drive to look after the real needs of people.
"His connection with the people of this area whether it was through agriculture, sport, politics, the carers, community development, or music has always meant there one set of ears always willing to hear and one set of arms and legs always willing to do something about it.
"His sharp mind, photographic memory and huge heart meant Willie Penrose was someone you could always rely on.
"If he could do if for you he would, if it was not possible he would tell you the truth.
"I am delighted that in the year as he bids us farewell as our TD and former minister that as Vice Chair of the Westmeath Comhaltas committee, The Fleadh is coming home to Mullingar and as a proud native, Ballnacargy are Junior Football Champions.
"Willie - you will always be missed, but we know you will always be with us.
"We gather at a time of extreme challenge for our nation in terms of affordable housing, health, transport, and the environment, but Labour has never shrunk from a challenge, in fact we are always front and centre when the heavy lifting is needed.
"We have for 107 years been there to support the low paid worker, the carer, the small business owner or the homeless. We have focused on supporting community projects, education in all its forms, and above all creating a fair and equal society.
"As we gather in Mullingar there are many people in this town and in this region, who suffer because of a massive lack of investment in rural Ireland.
"This discrimination has meant a lack of housing and employment, an inability to live in rural locations, cuts in Garda numbers, schools, transport options and support for small businesses.
"It has meant a lack of support for carers, for those suffering addiction, or mental health issues, or those who have had to come to our country for refuge. These issues and others will be our focus.
"We hope that everyone leaves this conference invigorated and mindful of the task that we have to offer a real alternative to the new “I step out and you step in again” politics of the two major parties or the lack of real alternatives or solutions offered by Sinn Féin and the other oppose everything parties.
"We are not about collecting votes on false promises but about building a fair and just society with real costed policies, and we are offering ourselves to the Irish electorate as a responsible party with a real vision for a fair and equal Ireland.
"We are asking the Irish people to support our by-election candidates and also to support each of us who will be on the ballot paper next Spring.
"In Labour we offer hope, solutions, and a transparent plan to solve the housing, health and environmental crisis.
"We want Climate action but also a just transition, we want jobs but in areas that limit our carbon footprint, we want essential infrastructure but will not be signing blank cheques like the national children’s hospital.
"We want clean water available to everyone but we also want to conserve it.
"We want a tax system that stimulates employment but does not starve essential government services.
"We are about responsible politics, we tell the truth.
"I feel that what can be more important than a safe and clean environment, a health service we can depend on, and a roof over our heads and a real chance to support ourselves and our families.
"Over 300,000 carers in this country need our voice, thousands without a home need our voice, hundreds on trolleys every day need our voice, those who suffer from addiction and poor mental health need our voice, those who cannot access education need our voice, those who lack affordable childcare, meaningful employment and essential services need our voice.
"The voice of people who care has been Labour for 107 years, and we must make that voice heard."