Petulant Pat going down with all guns blazing

Rabbitte was raging against the dying of the ministerial light

Pat Rabbitte, Minister for Communications, Energy & Natural Resources, but for how much longer?

Pat Rabbitte, Minister for Communications, Energy & Natural Resources, but for how much longer?


Eamon Gilmore kicks off his final morning as leader of the Labour Party by hosting a breakfast meeting in Iveagh House.

Ironically for him, today’s event is organised by the Women for Election organisation – a not-for-profit, non-partisan group whose vision is of an Ireland with balanced participation of men and women in political life. “Our mission is to inspire and equip women to succeed in politics.”

This will be a good day for them, so.

Not so good for Eamon, who, barring an upset, will see a woman elected to take his job this afternoon.

Joan Burton looks on course to take over the helm when the count is completed in the Round Room of Dublin’s Mansion House.

When that happens, she may have to wait a while before she meets the Taoiseach to talk about their future. Enda is due to take part in the gruelling Ring of Kerry cycle tomorrow, although he said in Berlin yesterday that his first task over this weekend will be to sit down with the new Labour leader and discuss the way forward.

He’ll be on a very tight schedule. We can only pray he’ll be cut out of those cycling shorts before introducing himself to Joan.

Stressed Rabbitte

Meanwhile, back in Leinster House, a stressed Pat Rabbitte was having a tough day standing in for his departing boss, who disappointed the chamber by failing to materialise for what would have been his last session of Leaders’ Questions as Tánaiste.

Rabbitte is not taking rumours of his imminent ministerial demise very well.

To an unsympathetic reception from a giggling Opposition, the Minister for Communications began slowly backing out the Cabinet door, spraying bullets in all directions.

He attacked Fianna Fáil, he attacked Sinn Féin, he attacked People Before Profit and he launched a particularly vicious attack on mild-mannered Independent TD Stephen Donnelly.

The Wicklow deputy was just taking his seat in the chamber when Rabbitte savaged him for “ducking out” of the banking inquiry when he realised it would involve doing some hard work. Donnelly, who had been minding his own business, looked up, wide-eyed and bemused.

Pat’s spectacular harrumph didn’t end there. At least, he fulminated, the deputy who stepped down will be replaced by Joe Higgins “and he’s not afraid of a bit of work”.

The chamber reverberated to the sound of dropping jaws.

If Rabbitte was to go down, he would do it with all guns blazing. The man was on fire.

Fianna Fáil’s Dara Calleary was agog.

“I wish you well, although judging from the bite in your responses this morning, you’re doing a Luis Suárez on it. I don’t know if Minister Burton has given you a 30-match ban, but we wish you well,” he smirked.

“He’s in wind-down mode” said Timmy Dooley.

“I wouldn’t like to see him winding up” added Dara.

Pat calmed down.

“I’m a Liverpool supporter, a Ceann Comhairle, and I apologise if I bit anyone this morning.”

But Rabbitte’s contrition was short-lived. Later in the afternoon, he attended an event organised by Simon to announce a housing scheme for homeless people.

A very good and timely project. Pat felt it should be given a lot of publicity.

‘Facing the chop’

Unfortunately, the journalists who turned up weren’t particularly interested in the Simon story.

“There is speculation you may be facing the chop . . .” was their first question. Pat was deeply unimpressed. Hadn’t he answered that question a hundred times? And still he’s asked about his ministerial prospects.

Of course, he said, voice dripping with sarcasm, he understands the newspaper industry is in a bad way “and anything I can do to make more attractive headlines for purchasers on the street . . . I am very happy to contribute.”

Pat was mad as hell and wasn’t going to take it anymore. Which is neither here nor there, because he probably won’t be in his job next week.

Then there are the rumours of unrest in Fine Gael over differing views between the Coalition parties over property tax.

“What unrest? What unrest has it caused? What’s the unrest. I mean we shouldn’t be using language like this. It’s complete nonsense. Complete nonsense.”

And on he went, fulminating to his heart’s content.

Rabbitte is clearly hurting. Petulant Pat will learn his fate next week. His behaviour yesterday indicates that he knows the game is up.

And yesterday’s performances may just have represented a final railing against the inevitable.

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