Lise Hand

Saturday 2 August 2014

Labour's Joan Burton is power-groomed to the max

Lise Hand

Published 29/05/2014|02:30

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28/05/2014 Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton TD at the announcement of her leadership bid at Leinster House Plinth , Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
28/05/2014 Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton TD at the announcement of her leadership bid at Leinster House Plinth , Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
28/05/2014 Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton TD at the announcement of her leadership bid at Leinster House Plinth , Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
28/05/2014 Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton TD at the announcement of her leadership bid at Leinster House Plinth , Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Dominic Hannigan
Dominic Hannigan

Boudicca Burton was ready for battle. Despite the suddenness of Eamon Gilmore's announcement, Joan hadn't just tumbled from the cot yesterday morning, dragged a brush through her hair and hastily grabbed whatever hat came to hand to hurl into the ring.

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She was a vision of power-grooming as she sallied forth on to the plinth of Leinster House, ringed by a doughnut of supporters including her proposer and seconder, Carlow-Kilkenny TD Ann Phelan and Dublin South-West's Eamonn Maloney.

The demure brunette locks she sported two days previously as she stood with her colleagues and watched her boss announce his resignation were gone, replaced by a perfectly-styled coiffure of gold highlights.

This was 'Hillary Hair'. It's the costume de rigueur of a woman on the march, a substitute for a hat-in the-ring. And Joan even invoked the formidable former US Secretary of State who's taking a helluva lot longer than the Social Protection Minister to announce her intention to contest for a top job.

When asked what she thought of the chatter within Labour about the job going to some bright young(ish) Turk, she unveiled the answer which one suspects she had prepared earlier.

"I'm aware that someone slightly older than me, Hillary Clinton, is talking about running for the Presidency of the United States," she replied, adding, "Now I know that being President of the United States is probably a bit easier than being leader of the Labour Party," she quipped, as the doughnut of compadres behind her fell about laughing.

Indeed. And it'll take more than Obama's hopey-changey thing to snatch the Labour Party from the flaming pyre whereupon it's been hurled by the electorate.

Joan was the first contestant out of the traps, arriving on to the plinth bang on time at 2.30pm, to be greeted by an enormous pack of media jostling for elbow-room. "To quote 'Jaws', we're gonna need a bigger plinth," muttered one scribe.

Flanked by her team, including Labour senators Susan O'Keeffe and Ivana Bacik and a gaggle of councillors including Mary Freehill and newly-elected Jane Horgan-Jones, Joan set out her stall.

She proclaimed that "the limits of austerity have been reached", while also stressing that she wants the party to be "an equal and active partner for the full term of this Government and to secure enough representation in the subsequent general election to enable us to form part of the next government".

Now all she has to do is convince the nervous nellies in Fine Gael that she's willing to refrain from throwing crockery around the Cabinet room while setting fire to the Programme for Government.

Afterwards, she got a hug from Senator Susan O'Keefe.

"She a smart, bright woman with a huge amount to offer," Susan declared.

And this is what her parliamentary colleagues have to mull over as they contemplate their choice.

The deputy leadership race may be a more crowded field.

One potential runner, Kerry TD Arthur Spring, lurked at the door of Leinster House.

All sorts of names were being bandied about yesterday before they all headed into what promised to be a lengthy and lively parliamentary party meeting. One Labour TD scurried over to where one of her colleagues was conversing quietly about the state o'chassis in the party.

"Did you hear who's just thrown his hat in the ring?" she exclaimed.

"Who now?" all-but groaned her fellow deputy.

"John McGuinness," she deadpanned and sped onwards.

It was a burst of gallows humour but given the carousel of characters who were circling the aforementioned ring, it wasn't entirely inconceivable that Fianna Fail's top notice-box might fancy his chances.

Another possible deputy contender, Meath East's Dominic Hannigan, popped up on 'Morning Ireland' to put the case for a young blood like himself. The first-time TD was utterly unbothered by the fact that he's only in the place a wet weekend. "President Obama didn't have executive experience when he was elected, neither did Tony Blair," he declared.

Ah here, young Dominic. Don't be getting overwrought. Take a leaf out of Joan's book, and keep your hair on.

Irish Independent

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