It was pretty grey this weekend in the "sunny southeast", writes Ailbhe Conneely.

While it brightened slightly on Saturday, the skies over Wexford remained relatively dull - reflecting the mood of the journalists seeking news lines at the Labour Party conference.

For delegates, it was a far brighter affair. They seemed in good form - but why wouldn’t they? The only way is up.

Since the worst election in the party’s history, party members nationwide have been consulted on how Labour should proceed. This weekend was about regrouping and most importantly moving forward. A clean slate if you will.

What was evident from the motions put to the conference was the desire of many for Labour to return to its roots - the party of workers and Trade Unions.

Step forward the new party Chairperson Jack O’Connor. The poor unfortunate SIPTU President had an eye infection - he looked like he got a box before his new position was even confirmed.

This is the man who stressed the need for a left wing government with the inclusion of Sinn Féin at the Labour conference in 2015. What are the chances?

On Friday night, a motion was put to delegates rejecting any electoral strategy involving co-operation with Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael - it did not preclude forms of cooperation with other left wing and progressive parties.

The same night party leader Brendan Howlin told delegates that as an independent party, it would not be beholden or secondary to anyone else.

Deputy Willie Penrose also told RTÉ News that Labour would not go into coalition with another party for 15 years; few could argue with that plan considering the ground it needs to gain to become the "independent party" Deputy Howlin was talking about.

Much of the conference centered on the theme of rebuilding and with the party stagnant at 6% in the opinion polls, there is plenty of work to be done.

In fairness, there appeared to be more younger members at this year’s convention than in previous gatherings. The evidence was not solely down to posters in the toilet cubicle advertising Labour Youth’s Disco fundraiser, but an emphasis was placed by the party on a number of young impressive female Councillors like Martina Genockey and Rebecca Moynihan.

Labour women also put time aside to gather on the top floor of the Wexford Opera House on Saturday, for the inaugural presentation of the Jo Cox award.

The award was established in honour of the British Labour MP who was murdered outside her constituency clinic in the UK last year and permission was sought from her widow for it to be established by Labour in Ireland.

The inaugural prize was given to Oonagh Murphy by Brendan Howlin for her tireless work on the marriage referendum, LGBT issues and with asylum seekers.

It was noted at the event that the new Party leader likes events to start on time.

Mr Howlin gestured to the previous leader Joan Burton, to his left, and made a quip about the time keeping of past party leaders much to the amusement of the audience.

Ms Burton smiled. Just about.

Back at the conference, some delegates had left the hall to watch the rugby game. Former minister for state Kathleen Lynch organised that it be shown in a bar around the corner.

The Munster supporters returned defeated but there was still enough time to wind up the enthusiasm of delegates for Mr Howlin’s live televised address.

At 8.15pm, he began his first party conference speech as party leader. There was no lectern, so he was free to wander around the stage as he liked. It was very TEDTalks.

Sitting TDs’ lined the front row. There are only seven so Jack O’Connor and a number of well known councillors filled the gaps.

The Labour Leader noted the unknown hurdles that face Ireland such as Brexit and the US Presidency.

He attacked US President Donald Trump describing him as a "racist, a homophobe and a bully"; putting himself firmly off any Doonbeg visitors list.

He used the live televised time to remind people of Labour’s roots when it came to jobs and suggested that the rainy day fund be used for schools, hospitals and housing.

The former minister had a go at the current Government describing it as a "sham" and accused Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and the Independents of being quite content about showing no ambition.

In the Mobile Satellite Unit where the speech was being monitored live and camera angles were being chosen, one camera operator noted that eyelids in the auditorium were beginning to droop in the close up shots. It was uncomfortable viewing as the camera sought to capture delegates that were fully awake.

Before anyone could drop off fully however, the new Labour leader promised to repeal, not replace the eighth amendment and Brendan Howlin received the biggest applause of the night and indeed, of the weekend.