THE words 'Eamon Gilmore' and 'lucky break' don't feature too often in the same sentence in these turbulent times, but the Tanaiste can take a crumb of comfort, from the bakery-full batch of bad news, that he was out of the country yesterday.
This meant that the 500 college students roaring "Gilmore, Gilmore, Gilmore – Out, Out, Out!" at the front door of his constituency office in Dun Laoghaire yesterday afternoon would've had to shout rather loudly indeed to be heard in Brussels, where Eamon was meeting with EU foreign ministers over the civil war in Syria.
But it's the growing signs of trouble on the home front which must have the Labour leader on red alert. The sound of rattling sabres is rising from some of the more warlike members of his parliamentary party, who will brook no more dithering or delays over a cabinet decision on the X Case ruling, and this week's Sinn Fein motion is seriously spooking the more skittish deputies.
And alas for Eamon, Labour isn't winning the war for the hearts and minds of the electorate – a weekend poll made scarifying reading for the party, with the Tanaiste's popularity dropping five points and (even more painfully) Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin now top of the political pops.
But at least he didn't have to read all the rude signs about him which surrounded his constituency office in Patrick Street, Dun Laoghaire. ' James Connolly Hates You' was the blunt message on one poster, while another proclaimed, 'Whoever Said The First Cut is the Deepest Never Met Eamon Gilmore'.
The last speaker was USI President John Logue, who began his speech by pointing to the Tanaiste's office. "Thirty-four years ago, the man who would be standing here talking to you as USI President would be Eamon Gilmore," he said, as boos broke out. "And 34 years ago, Eamon Gilmore would say that education is a right, not a privilege," he added.
"The critics will tell you a small group of determined people cannot change the course of this country – tell that to the first person who lit a candle for Savita last week.
"We can change the course of this country".
After the rally, IADT student Jennifer Brennan explained that she had been an active member of Labour Youth, but had resigned over the cuts to education.
"Some students have to choose between a bus ticket and eating," she said. "I campaigned to get Labour elected, and now I'm ashamed of them."
Although this was a polite protest – more Ross O'Carroll-Kelly than Robespierre – the USI do mean business, and another protest is planned for outside the Department of Education on Thursday. If Eamon wants to avoid getting a big F for fail, he must try harder. Much harder indeed.