Wednesday 28 September 2016

The Yates anthology: Labour's ABKs must get behind Howlin

Published 14/05/2016 | 02:30

'Smart money says ‘You Are The Only One’, sung by hot hunk Sergey Lazarev, will be at the top of the voting table.' TT News Agency/Maja Suslin/via REUTERS
'Smart money says ‘You Are The Only One’, sung by hot hunk Sergey Lazarev, will be at the top of the voting table.' TT News Agency/Maja Suslin/via REUTERS

For the Labour Party, the fightback begins now with the executive council preparing to select Joan Burton's successor.

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The ones with the most rose-tinted spectacles are of a view that they can repeat Dick Spring's feat achieved between 1987 and 1992.Having been roundly trounced, the red rose brigade returned with the high tide of 33 TDs.

But much has now changed - sadly all for the worse.

Back in those now distant days, we still had a two-party system, plus the PDs. But Labour is now squeezed by the same centre parties of FF and FG on its middle-class flank, while Sinn Féin, the Anti-Austerity Alliance, People Before Profit and the Social Democrats are all breathing down its neck on the left.

The trade unions are more politicised. The Right2Change group openly campaigned against Labour. Voter choice has never been so varied.

The challenge in Dublin is the most intense. From 2009 to 2014, Labour was the largest party in the capital, commanding more than 20pc of support. It now has just two Labour TDs, Joan Burton and Brendan Ryan, and there is clearly no figurehead to rally behind to lead a recovery in a dozen constituencies.

The party lost all Cork city TDs. The potential new leader has a 'non-Dublin' label to overcome from the off.

The leadership contest boils down to ABK - Anyone But Kelly. The incumbent deputy leader easily defeated Sean Sherlock for the number two position. He's probably his own greatest admirer. But he is also arguably the most pugnacious operator in the Dáil.

Strategists fear his combative style may suit Tipperary senior ground hurling. It could be seen as a liability for more timid souls.

This weekend, Sherlock, Jan O'Sullivan and Brendan Howlin are all mulling over the prospects of a run. Rebuilding the party is a tall order that will take a two-election strategy.

Realistically, only Brendan Howlin can beat Kelly. For my money, Brendan is easily the best candidate based on his extensive cabinet experience and adept media ability.

His terms as Minister for Health, Environment and Public Expenditure mean that he could negotiate Labour's involvement in future governments with either Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael.

He's been a Wexford TD since 1987, having started out as a senator.

I always found him to be a fair competitor, a loyal colleague and an absolutely professional public representative.

That's why, for Labour's sake, I hope he runs and wins.

Bail reform urgent

Two years have now elapsed since Alan Shatter's resignation. He's now understandably intent on forcing Enda Kenny to formally clear his name on the Dáil record on foot of the O'Higgins report.

The current Justice Minister, Frances Fitzgerald, has had a soft ride from the media in her portfolio.

Her demeanour is certainly less abrasive than that of her predecessor. But she can't escape some grave questions about a failure to legislate to prevent known criminals from being at large.

The Moriarty judgment in relation to suspended sentences has enabled dozens of prisoners to be released until laws are passed to plug the loophole.

No responding bill or order has been published so far.

But of more concern is the failure to reform our bail system. Last week, a Waterford man received eight concurrent life sentences for kidnap and rape.

He previously served a nine-year sentence for raping his own daughter. Then last July, he reoffended while on bail.

I had thought that we'd fixed the bail loopholes with the referendum in 1997.

That bail act meant persons charged with serious offences could be refused liberty if there's a reasonable risk of re-offending.

Yet between 2005 and 2015, some 115,428 serious offences were committed by bailed criminals.

This included 93 homicides, 116 kidnappings and 237 sex crimes.

Bail can be refused if there's a risk of absconding from standing trial, potential interference with witnesses, or a likelihood of further offences.

Ms Fitzgerald announced new bail legislation last July, which would oblige the judiciary to have regard to persistent serious offending by bail applicants.

It also allowed victims to give evidence to court during bail hearings.

There were stricter conditions to refrain from contacts, and there was an obligation to give reasons for bail.

There were also new powers of arrest where bail was breached.

Despite the fanfare, the bill has gone missing. Public hearings before the Oireachtas justice committee in November gave the green light to proceed.

And still we wait.

Russia on song

For months, betting markets screamed Russia would win the 2016 Eurovision Song Contest in Stockholm tonight.

While Ukraine and France are fancied to be in the top three, the smart money says 'You Are The Only One', sung by hot hunk Sergey Lazarev, will be at the top of the voting table.

He waltzed through qualification in the first semi-final on Tuesday night.

Russia won only once before, in 2008, but were runners up last year. Expect plenty of support from neighbouring Eastern European juries. At odds of 6/5, the catchy song represents a sound wager - as the 3-D projected images provide all the required visual pyrotechnics and dance gyrations.

This year's camp-fest features Justin Timberlake performing during the interval instead of the traditional Swedish folk dancers.

This Superbowl-style show and initial US live television relays are sure signs America will join Australia as part of a so-called 'European' broadcasters' union.

Irish Independent

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