SDLP leader Margaret Ritchie with Eamon Gilmore in Galway yesterday

EAMON Gilmore has proposed that a special convention be formed to develop a new Irish constitution "fitted to our times and our aspirations" by 2016.

The Labour Party leader revealed his ambitious plan to redraw the 1937 constitution during his leader's speech at the party's annual conference in NUI Galway last night.

"It is time, in my view, for a fundamental review of our constitution," he told a packed Bailey Allen Hall. "There is much about the constitution that has served us well, but it is a document written in the 1930s for the 1930s.

"What I propose is a constitutional convention, a coming together of all strands of Irish society to redraw our constitution. The constitutional convention would include experts and specialists, but would also include individual citizens, randomly chosen to serve in much the same way that we choose juries, charged with the task of keeping what is best in our constitutional tradition, and to develop a new constitution, fitted to our times and our aspirations.

"Let us set ourselves the target to have it ready for the 100th anniversary of the 1916 rising, that seminal moment when our state was conceived."

His 'One Ireland' speech also outlined that Labour would establish a Department of Public Service Reform and called for a general election to "get rid of Fianna Fáil" and offer the electorate the opportunity to elect a Labour-led government.

"The political change we need now is not just from one crowd to the other crowd... Let me be bluntly clear about this. Our objective at the next election, whenever it is held, is a new government, led by Labour," he said.

"I am determined, that at the coming general election, the Labour Party will run enough candidates to enable the Irish people to make Labour the largest party in the next Dáil, and to lead the next government.

"And to those who doubt if that is possible, and who still view politics through the prism of the past, let me offer them the words of Robert Kennedy: 'I dream of things that never were and say why not.'"

He did not mention Fine Gael's controversial plans to scrap the Seanad but he claimed that his Labour-led government would introduce the overdue reforms which would make the parliament "belong more to the 21st century than the 19th".

He said that Labour would take €2bn from the Pension Reserve Fund and establish a Strategic Investment Bank that would put €20bn to work in the economy. "The new bank will have a joined-up approach, providing finance for innovative companies and small firms that are the backbone of this economy, but also helping to finance the infrastructure that they need to succeed," said Gilmore.

He also said Labour would establish a dedicated jobs fund that would finance an 'earn and learn scheme' designed to keep people in employment while upskilling.

Labour's graduate and apprentice programme would provide work experience for 30,000 young people, "to break the cycle where you can't get a job without experience and you can't get experience without a job". The party also plans to set up a tax-back scheme to fund full-time study and help people retrain.