Fallen leader invoked in attack on Gilmore 'betrayal'
Dáil Sketch:A venerable history can be a great burden, especially when your opponents use it to take advantage.
So it was for Labour leader Eamon Gilmore when his party’s founder was invoked to accuse him of being party to a “monstrous betrayal” of the organisation’s principles.
Worse still was that the accusations came from a constituency rival. United Left Alliance and left-wing ideologue Richard Boyd Barrett, a fellow Dún Laoghaire TD, was certainly hitting his stream of consciousness targets.
In his usual impassioned manner he raged against the negotiations on the Croke Park agreement.The Government had repeatedly claimed it was legally prevented “from cutting the obscene pensions of former politicians and top civil servants”, he thundered.
But “as we speak the Government is moving to tear up an agreement made with public sector workers that is supposed to run until the middle of 2014”.
And he recited a very impressive list of cuts that public sector workers had already taken
And these same workers were among the 180,000 who could not pay their mortgages, he declared. And then the call to fallen leaders.
“On the 100th anniversary of the 1913 lockout, is it not a monstrous betrayal of the traditions of the party and its founder James Connolly to be asking further pay cuts of nurses whose take-home pay was about €25,000”. And who’s making those demands? None other than “Ministers who are on €140,000 a year”.
Er . . . they’re actually on €169,000.
Labour’s Emmet Stagg sniped Boyd Barrett was on €130,000, “some €40,000 of it tax-free”.
James Connolly would be “spinning in his grave at what the Tánaiste is trying to do to these workers”, the ULA man gasped.
But the Tánaiste, a former union negotiator, has been here before. As he told the Dáil a couple of weeks ago, one of the first lessons he learned about negotiation was never to threaten an ice cream strike in the middle of winter.
And he instructed his constituency colleague that “the place for negotiations and discussions is at the negotiating table, not by megaphone” or in the Dáil chamber.
But the leader said there was no point anyone trying to “second-guess the talks” or trying to predict the outcome.
Socialist TD Joe Higgins reminded him “you’re threatening unilateral pay cuts”. The only prediction that could be guaranteed, said the Tánaiste, was that Boyd Barrett would at the end accuse the workers’ representatives “of selling them out”. Time will tell.