‘Shovel-ready’ Emer pauses Eurospeak to take a dig at poll frontrunner Sinn Féin

Labour’s Euro hopeful is fighting hard in face of possible party meltdown

Labour’s European candidate Emer Costello canvassing on Grafton Street, Dublin, with Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Labour’s European candidate Emer Costello canvassing on Grafton Street, Dublin, with Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Tue, May 20, 2014, 01:00

The Charge of the Labour Brigade. (as not imagined by Tennyson).

Into the valley of debt rode the underfunded.

EU to the right of them. ECB to the left of them. IMF behind them.

Theirs not to make reply.

Theirs not to reason why.

Theirs but to do and die . . .

No matter how much they argue the actions of Fianna Fáil and the troika’s diktat forced their hand on policy, it looks like Labour is going to be slaughtered on Friday.

Sinn Féin is going all out to disappear them.

And everyone else is piling in through the gap.

The way people have been talking, you’d be afraid to leave any of them near a naked flame. Meltdown, it seems, is imminent.

Is it too late to avoid destruction?

Outgoing MEP Emer Costello hasn’t given up hope. She is fighting hard, but her message is firmly focused on Europe, and her record in parliament during the past two years.

She talks passionately, and at length, about “trying to Europeanise the European elections”.

As a member of the employment and social affairs committee, she points to an innovative youth employment project they have put in place along with her leading role in bringing about an anti-poverty strategy.

Martin Schulz in Cabra

On the doorsteps she is trying to sell Labour’s links with MEP Martin Schulz – “a good friend to Ireland” – who is running for the presidency of the EU Commission on a growth and jobs platform.

But who the hell is Martin Schulz? And where might he be when those water bills slide through the letter box?

Even some of her team had to laugh at a recent tweet from a party worker: “Great response to Emer Costello and Martin Schulz on the doors in Cabra.”

Sure, it should be about Europe, but the people she needs to convince are more concerned about their pressing problems at home, and Labour’s role in bringing them about.

It’s not going well.

So yesterday afternoon, when the other party candidates were busy being hothoused by handlers and swotting up on their lines in advance of a pre-recorded debate with Vincent Browne, Emer was canvassing on Grafton Street.

Joan Burton came along to lend support. She was wearing a casual brown leather jacket over her smart dress. Earlier in the day, at a Women for Emer Costello meeting at Buswell’s Hotel, Joan arrived wearing the exact same red jacket as the candidate.

“I just ran into Marks yesterday and bought it,” she explained, mortified.

In deference to the candiate, the Minister removed her new purchase. This meant that both she and Lorraine Mulligan, the party’s candidate in the Dublin West byelection, were dressed in black.

Not a good sign in a campaign of ominous signs for Labour.

“The last time that happened to me was at a press conference when Mary Robinson was going for the presidency,” said Joan, striking a hopeful note.

Among the women at the meeting were Denise Charlton of the Immigrant Council, singer Mary Coughlan, former Independent senator Mary Henry, former senator and Supreme Court judge Catherine McGuinness, Margaret E Ward of Women on Air, artist Margaret Corcoran and Jillian Van Turnhout, the Taoiseach’s nominee to the Upper House.

Why was she there? “I want to support people who want to comprehensively and robustly engage with Europe and I think Emer will do that.”