Opportunity knocks but not on doorsteps

Alex White attempts to bridge troubled waters

 Alex White on the Rosie Hackett bridge, the new go-to launching pad for the left.

Alex White on the Rosie Hackett bridge, the new go-to launching pad for the left.


Here’s the real result of the elections: the doorsteps have spoken and they think politicians are talking to the wall.

Humility was the order of the day when the troops returned to Leinster House.

”We have learned from the doorsteps” was the phrase of the week from the Disconnected Ones.

None more so than members of the Labour Party. The new generation of TDs and senators were particularly cheesed off. “We kept being told to go out to the doors and talk to people. But we’ve been doing that, and getting it in the neck for months - not that the elder lemons were bothered to hear it” said one of them yesterday.

”We had volunteers with us who were taking dog’s abuse. It was twice as vicious in Dublin. I didn’t see the big wigs out helping them.”

On Monday, their leader offered himself up as political sacrifice to the angry doorsteps and the succession race began.

Alex White, wearing a very pink tie, chose to open his campaign with a press conference on the newly opened Rosie Hackett bridge in Dublin, after one of his team moved members of the public from the adjacent seating.

He would have been too busy to see one of the first victims of his medical card fiasco floating, face up, down the Liffey. It was an Emer Costello election poster, glaring up accusingly at Medical Card Man as she drifted by.

The event was a bit stagey, not least because Labour and the unions seem hell bent on annexing the Rosie Hackett bridge as their own, rather in the way Sinn Féin pitch up outside the GPO on big occasions.

White and the young three TDs (Derek Nolan, Michael McNamara and Ciara Conway who turned up in support wore overblown red roses in their lapels, looking like they’d taken a wrong turn on the way to a wedding. Except for Derek, who stood tall and silent beside the man he is proposing for leader.

He looked like an off-duty guard moonlighting on a bit of security work.

Apart from the TDs and senator John Gilroy, the majority of the group with him was very male and middle-aged, with a strong air of SIPTU about them.

Lord Mayor Oisín Quinn, who lost his council seat last week, was also in attendance. But he didn’t get a rose.

That’s the brutality of politics for you.

Speaking of which, junior Health minister White got quite a going-over from the assembled journalists who wanted to focus on his special area of responsibility – the medical card fiasco.

The shambles that White, along with the rest of The Disconnected in government, failed to notice on their beloved doorsteps before the elections.

It was a bit awkward for the candidate, who insisted the decision to cut so many cards for so many deserving cases had been a government decision. Personally speaking, he hadn’t liked it one bit at the time, he insisted.

So if he was that upset, why didn’t he do what his predecessor Róisín Shorthall did: stick to his principles and resign?

Alex was, as the late Seamus Brennan once famously remarked, playing senior hurling now. It wasn’t pretty.

And it got worse. Did he shaft Eamon Gilmore? Oh, no. “There was nobody taken out.” Because Eamon, for whom he has the deepest respect, resigned of his own accord.

”I think Eamon himself came to the conclusion that it was best for him to resign his leadership of the Labour Party and, as he said himself, there is no difficulty between us…”

Alex, himself, may have decided to support the motion of no confidence against his leader and was going to tell him as much, but events were overtaken by the Tánaiste’s quick resignation.

”I think Eamon himself went voluntarily.”

We couldn’t help thinking of Enda Kenny’s protestations about the Garda Commissioner “retiring” voluntarily.

The Taoiseach, had “anxieties and concerns” about issues in An Garda Síochána but he didn’t push the commissioner either.

There seems little to chose between what Alex is offering the party and what Joan is offering. They want renewal, a return to core values and more recognition for Labour in the coalition government, which they both hope will stay in business.

There was a photocall on the Rosie Hackett bridge (where a Labour woman has yet to make a speech), with Liberty Hall in the background and their pinned on red Rosie’s to underline their core credentials.

It seems a win-win situation for Alex. Word is that if he loses the battle, he’ll get a place at the cabinet table for his troubles. From where there’s a lovely view of the doorsteps. Hair today, gone tomorrow They’re calling it The Battle of the Bouffants.

Joan Burton’s power hairstyle was a talking point in some quarters when she stepped up to the mark on Tuesday.

And Alex White’s grey thatch was a talking point when he announced his candidacy yesterday.

They’re having a great laugh in Labour about it.

”Joan has Hillary Clinton hair. Alex has Bill Clinton Hair.”

Take a look. It’s true. Very Bill and Hill.

Meanwhile, the declared candidates for second-in-command are all from the Southern end of the country: Alan Kelly (Tipperary), Michael McCarthy (Cork), Seán Sherlock (Cork). Waterford’s Ciara Conway is considering her position over the weekend. Should she decide to put her name forward, that will make four.

They shall be known as The Munsters. Shinners show iron discipline The Dáil was rather restrained in the aftermath of the elections. Not surprising, as most of the parties had nothing to crow about.

But there was a spring in the step of the independents, while Sinn Féin personnel underscored their reputation for iron discipline by resisting the urge to roar “In. Your. Face!” at the ashen-faced government speakers.

Mind you, An Phoblacht didn’t hold back. The super soaraway Sinn Féin house journal rushed out a bumper June edition, complete with a 40 page election special.

Yes, that’s forty extra pages on top of the usual offering. It’s a constant source of amazement how the venerable republican newspaper can keep afloat with so few advertisements and a currency adjustment defying cover price of €2/£2.

‘Largest party in Ireland’ ran the banner headline on the full colour front page, complete with photographs of their four successful European candidates.

Underneath was a somewhat disconcerting quote from Gerry Adams: “Seismic shift,” said he.

That must be worth a tweet from Ted.

Fine Gael, meanwhile, took shelter in the lea of Labour’s drubbing.

As poor Eamon Gilmore got the bump, Enda Kenny attempted to distract from his party’s poor showing by dancing a weird hands, knees and bumps-a-daisy at the Bloom Festival.

Fianna Fail tried to play up their huge jump in popularity from despised to tolerated. However, the loss of Pat ‘The Cope’ Gallagher’s seat in Europe should lead to a difficult parliamentary party meeting for leader Micheál Martin next week.

Thanks to the marathon MNW count, Pat’s seat was still in the balance when they had their meeting this week. With all the attention on Labour, the FF’s parliamentary party meeting might have been overlooked this week.

The post-Pat repercussions will get far more attention this week.

Senate acknowledges irrelevancy In the Seanad, senators didn’t feel so constrained when it came to crowing, with members from all sides commenting on the results.

Most of them, bar Labour, put a favourable gloss on their own party’s performance.

Jim D’arcy of Fine Gael was keen to highlight the achievement of FG in the local elections in his neck of the woods.

”I acknowledge the great achievement of Sinn Féin in different areas. Louth has not been rolled over by a Sinn Féin tsunami; we had eight Fine Gael councillors and we now have seven, with the councillor who lost being replaced by a fellow from the Fine Gael family. We are still there.”

Cathaoirleach, Paddy Burke was getting a bit fed up with all the trumpeting.

2Is this relevant to the order of business?” he asked.

And D’Arcy, to be fair to him, gave an honest answer.

“No” said the Haggardstown man, “It is completely irrelevant.”

Well said, Senator.

Michael D pauses for effect

What with the elections going on, we quite neglected our President’s recent trip to America, undertaken in the warm afterglow of his state visit to the UK.

As ever, Michael D. had many speaking engagements, including one in downtown Chicago’s Drake Hotel, where he delivered the King Abdullah II annual leadership lecture to the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and the University of Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy.

You could tell this one would be a laugh a minute.

The lecture was about “Reintegrating economics, ethics and environmental sustainability as subject and policy: the challenge of our times.”

Tough going.

In the course of his address, President Higgins said: “The office of the President of Ireland is an independent one, separate from Government under our Constitution, which means that I do not address issues falling within the Government’s remit.”

No, he doesn’t, though sometimes by just a whisker.

”However, as head of state, I am compelled to represent the experience and hardships of the Irish people - all of them, at home and abroad.”

After his speech, a woman from the floor asked for his reaction to the recent arrest of Gerry Adams.

Michael D mischievously answered very slowly: “It was inevitable…” And there he paused…“that I would be asked that question.”

His American audience laughed.

Not so his diplomatic entourage, who nearly died of fright during the President’s dramatic pause.

“Our hearts were beating outside our chests when he started that sentence,” gasped one of them afterwards.

In the end, Michael D gave a general reply, saying that in the interest of peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland, justice couldn’t be applied selectively to issues of the past. Protections for state actors as well as other individuals had to be removed.

Then he went on to say in the Q&A session that there was “something very strange” about a central bank (the ECB) having the goal of keeping inflation below two per cent as its sole objective, noting how unemployment was the biggest issue in Europe.

Some might have interpreted this as veering into monetary policy issues but it didn’t seem to bother Michael D in the least.

We’d love to hear his views on the current situation in the Labour party. Perhaps he might work on an apt generalisation for the coming weeks.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection


Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.