Friday 28 November 2014

Lise Hand: Gilmore's in the eye of the storm as Black Tuesday hits

Published 02/10/2013 | 05:00

Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore

AFTER a prolonged balmy summer, it was a gloomy, sodden morning commute to work for denizens of the capital yesterday morning.

But the hard rain that fell on the Labour Party's parade over breakfast had little to do with the soggy weather. A party staffer posted a doleful tweet just after 8am, which read: "Shall call today Black Tuesday. That is all ... "

It was a reference to the inclement conditions, she later claimed. But there was no denying that the latest poll figures, which place the Labour Party at a grim 6pc – a fall of 6pc since the last comparable poll three months ago – puts the junior coalition partners right into the eye of the storm again.

"It's not a good poll," admitted Labour Minister Brendan Howlin as he trudged into Government Buildings, "there's no point in saying anything else."

In fairness, polls are fickle beasts. Only a few days previously, another poll indicated that Labour was on the rise.

Even Fianna Fail's Willie O'Dea, who has experienced the highs and lows of polls in his day, was scratching his head over these latest findings. "The whole polling system is a complete mystery to me," he confessed.

And in truth, it had been looking a little better for the Labour Party in recent days. For starters, it appeared that the Tanaiste and his deputy leader had buried the hatchet – and not in each other's heads, happily. Eamon Gilmore and Joan Burton had been singing a more harmonious duet, with the Social Protection Minister dutifully backing her boss to lead the party into next summer's local elections.

However, there was a mixture of bravado and gloom on the corridors of Leinster House in the wake of the poll.

Labour's Junior Health Minister Alex White faced a posse of press on the plinth who had gathered for a somewhat peculiar photo-call on the forgotten child of polling day, the second referendum to establish a court of appeal. He and his three cross-party colleagues, Justice Minister Alan Shatter, Fianna Fail justice spokesman Sean O'Fearghail and Sinn Fein's Padraig MacLochlainn, posed together rather stiffly for a group photo, but insisted on taking questions individually.

Inevitably, Alex was promptly buttonholed on the poll. "It's not a good poll, there's no doubt about that," he admitted. "We have to reflect as we always do on those kinds of developments, but we're extremely busy at the moment, we have a Budget coming up in two weeks' time. But nobody is nonchalant," he said.

But did he think that Mr Gilmore would be well advised to hightail it out of the elegant environs of the Department of Foreign Affairs and into a more economic portfolio where he had a bit of a say in government expenditure?

"I don't think it's a question of the particular job that the party leader is in," he reckoned. "I think there's a complex range of factors as to why a party in government like us would suffer this kind of a poll result."

Nor did he believe that the crown was wobbly on the head of the Tanaiste. "I don't think there's a question mark over the leadership," he insisted.

And in fairness, there was no sound of swords stealthily leaving scabbards along the corridors. Most likely the Labour parliamentary party took lessons from the grisly fate that befell several of the Fine Gael mutineers who instigated a heave against Enda in the wake of a ghastly poll in the summer of 2010.

"I didn't feel like getting up this morning . . . 6pc . . ." said one dejected deputy.

But he wasn't in total despair. "It would make no difference if we replaced the leader. We've come this far, we know what we're doing," he said.

Nor does the leader himself seem concerned that a heave was in the offing. When asked on RTE's 'Six One News' if he was feeling the heat, he replied: "There is no pressure." Certainly there will be no pressure until the Budget is unleashed on October 15, which will be a Black Tuesday for everyone.

But if the cuts go Fine Gael's way and not Labour's way, it could be blacker still for the Tanaiste.

Irish Independent

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