Michael Brennan: Mood in the Labour dressing room not as gloomy as you might think
LABOUR held its last think in at Carton House - the training venue for Real Madrid's superstars. This year, it's at the Johnston House in Hotel which has recently played host to Davy Fitzgerald's Clare hurling team.
Labour is mid-way through its term in a Government, which is falling out of favours with voters weary of constant austerity Budgets.
While Fine Gael's support has dropped significantly in the opinion polls, Labour's has almost halved to 10pc. The opinion polls are giving a consistent warning that Labour on course to lose up to half its seats in the next election.
But given that many Labour TDs could be out of a job in two-and-a-half years, the mood in the dressing room is not as gloomy as many might expect. Many of them are privately convinced that they stand a good chance of retaining their own seat - whatever might happen elsewhere. And many of the most dissatisfied TDs are now outside the parliamentary party after last year's slew of departures.
Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore has confidently predicted that all remaining Labour TDs will support the October Budget. But he knows that the party has to achieve its objective of reducing the €3.1bn Budget adjustment target to have any change of staving off large losses in next year's local and European elections.
That also could influence the ongoing "will she or wont' she" sideshow of whether Social Protection Minister Joan Burton harbours any ambitions to challenge Mr Gilmore for the leadership. It is clear that Mr Gilmore is determined to "stay the course" not just in Government, but also as Labour party leader. But a poor election performance next May would put him under renewed pressure.
In the meantime, Labour TDs grimly admit that even if they get the Budget figure down from €3.1bn to €2.5bn, they are still unlikely to be thanked for it by voters. The cuts will still hurt.
But the party's hope ahead of the general election in 2016 rests on two factors. The first is that the positive signs of economic growth returning in recent months will intensify over the Government's remaining period in office. The second is that Labour will get some of the credit - rather than Fine Gael reaping all of the rewards.