John Drennan: Fine Gael 'envy' sparked Gilmore jibes, says Labour
Fightback as coalition partners blame jealous Fine Gael ministers for 'dithering' claims
Published 11/09/2011 | 05:00
TOP-LEVEL Labour sources have launched a counter-offensive against the attempt last week to portray Eamon Gilmore as a dithering, invisible presence in Cabinet.
At the Labour Party think-in, the Tanaiste dismissed the story as representing little more than "tittle-tattle". But the 'Quiet Man' Gilmore story has stung enough to inform a campaign to rescue the leader's public image.
Speaking to the Sunday Independent, senior Labour figures said the anonymous claims were actually informed by envy among certain Fine Gael ministers about the powerful position Mr Gilmore and Labour hold within Cabinet.
In the aftermath of the formation of the Government, much surprise was expressed within Labour over the decision of Mr Gilmore to take the somewhat peripheral Foreign Affairs portfolio.
However, Labour claims this is more than balanced by the role Mr Gilmore plays as one of the quartet of ministers on the "all-powerful" Economic Management Cabinet Committee.
This group, consisting of Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Mr Gilmore, Michael Noonan and Brendan Howlin, is essentially in charge of steering the economy.
One senior figure said: "All the real heavy lifting and discussion about the economy
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occurs there, by the time the Cabinet meets the decisions are done."
It is believed, however, that the existence of a "two-tier" Cabinet has generated "resentment in FG circles", where some feel they have been relegated to the second division.
One source noted that "attacking Gilmore is an attempt to throw elbows at other powerful ministers such as Howlin and Quinn".
Significantly, within Labour there is no overt sign of any dissent against Mr Gilmore. One figure noted: "We're all grown-ups here. There is no leaking against Eamon, we are not playing that sort of game".
Another source close to the Cabinet bluntly observed that: "It looks like a bad case of the green-eyed monster on the part of certain sections of Fine Gael. The current power structures mean some significant issues are not taken initially at Cabinet but decided between the top-level figures."
Though Mr Gilmore has come in for some criticism, significantly Labour ministers, despite some discontent over their initial positions, have been the main powerhouses of the Government.
As Brendan Howlin, Ruairi Quinn, and Joan Burton continue to secure four-star ratings, one senior Labour figure said most "fellows within the Cabinet are grown-up".
Within Fine Gael the view was that when it came to the mysterious source, "if you look at the cabinet minister ratings you wouldn't need to have a degree from CSI to sort out the forensics''.
The highest rating by Irish Independent Political Editor Fionnan Sheehan was given to 'top of the class' Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan.
He was not available for comment. It is, however, believed that Mr Hogan, who to date, is seen to have a cordial relationship with his Labour colleagues, is less than impressed by the conclusions of the rumour mill.
But many within Fine Gael believe Mr Hogan's special relationship with Mr Kenny, where he became known as 'Enda's enforcer', may no longer be quite as warm as it was. Sources within Fine Gael noted with some glee that over recent months "Phil has been replaced in the pecking order by Michael Noonan''.
One minister noted with some satisfaction: "The necklace of blame is certainly hanging on Phil after this one and Enda's not happy. Not so cute old Phil after all."