Ghosts of squabbles past haunt Gilmore

Eamon Gilmore has woman trouble from present and former candidates

Nessa Childers speaking to Breege Kavanagh and Bridget Toolan while canvassing in the Churchtown area of Dublin yesterday. Photograph; Dara Mac Dónaill

Nessa Childers speaking to Breege Kavanagh and Bridget Toolan while canvassing in the Churchtown area of Dublin yesterday. Photograph; Dara Mac Dónaill

Fri, May 16, 2014, 01:00

There is nothing new about bust-ups in the Labour Party.

When it comes to infighting and the European elections, it is almost a grand tradition now in the female wing.

Those Labour women love a good old row.

This time around, Eamon Gilmore is the leader trying to cope with the latest outbreak.

He’s having an Ebenezer Scrooge experience, haunted by visitations from the ghosts of squabbles past, present and, most worrying of all for him, future.

The past stalks him and his Dublin candidate Emer Costello throughout this campaign. Nessa Childers, who won a seat for Labour last time out but left the party following acrimonious disputes with the leadership, is now running as an Independent.

She is ahead of Costello in the opinion polls with a decent chance of landing the prize. As we saw on a canvass with her in south Dublin yesterday, abandoning the mother ship is doing her no harm at all.

Meanwhile, there was a real blast from the past at Labour’s manifesto launch in the afternoon.

None other than Bernie Malone, who fought a titanic battle with headquarters favourite Orla Guerin during the 1994 European elections. Bernie won the seat. Orla has gone on to a distinguished journalistic career with the BBC, reporting from some of the world’s most terrifying war zones.

A piece of cake after her experience with Labour.

Bernie is now campaigning for local election candidate Judy Dunne.

While the top brass and candidates do their best to talk of positivity, Bernie, in typical fashion, says things would be great on the doorsteps “if it wasn’t for the water charges and the Government. It’s a terrible pity for our great young candidates.”

It’s bad enough for Gilmore to have the face of Childers staring down at him from lamp posts all over the city.

Now, he looks down from his podium in the Westbury hotel to find the face of Bernie Malone looking up at him from the back row.

Gritted teeth
But on to the present, where he continues through gritted teeth to support Phil Prendergast, the party’s sitting MEP and troublesome candidate in Ireland South. Her unique selling point is that she thinks Gilmore is a terrible leader and should be replaced.

But as she is officially on the ticket, Phil must be invited to all the family events. She’s like the bolshie aunt who gleefully turns up to every big do, eats and drinks all round her and then proceeds to insult the relatives. She was at it again at the launch.

The manifestos are coming a bit late in the day. The poll is a week from now. But another launch gives respite from grief at the doorsteps.

So Eamon smiles while Phil gets into all the family photos and nobody says a word about her disloyalty to the leader. Mortifyingly hilarious to watch. Phil, on the other hand, seemed to be enjoying herself greatly.

As much as Childers seemed to be enjoying herself while handing out leaflets outside SuperValu in Churchtown. She may not be trading on her father’s name, but she is certainly benefiting from it.

Almost every person she speaks to mentions her father, Erskine Childers, the fourth president of Ireland.

An elderly man listens politely to her sales patter. Nessa can talk. Vaccinated with a gramophone needle, as the older folk who remember her father might say.

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