Saturday 22 October 2016

Gilmore illuminates the harsh reality of politics

Published 31/10/2015 | 02:30

Eamon Gilmore
Eamon Gilmore

He delivered a record 37 seats for Labour in 2011, so the last thing the then party leader, Eamon Gilmore, probably expected was to be handed his P45 just three years later.

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Political departures are seldom elegant and almost never dignified, but to some extent it might seem that the world of politics kicked Mr Gilmore in the teeth with both feet as he left the stage.

His autobiography, 'Inside The Room', gives us some valuable insights into a country on the verge of falling apart.

Steering a ship in the middle of an economic whirlwind is inevitably going to end up with people thrown overboard.

But it's not usually the skipper who ends up in the drink and the manner in which he got there is worth examining.

From Mr Gilmore's account, tensions between himself and current leader Joan Burton would indicate that there was trouble on the bridge as well as in the choppy economic seas. There was also static in the air between Mr Gilmore and the Taoiseach Enda Kenny. But there are two sides to every story.

As party leader, he was also losing the dressing room, with ministers of State Willie Penrose and Róisín Shortall both decamping. Mr Gilmore made his mistakes, like any politician will who makes a career in a ruthless game.

Yet when massively unpopular and difficult budgetary decisions were needed, Mr Gilmore put country before his personal politics. He made calls that were necessary for the national interest, but were inimical to his own prospects.

Comedian George Burns joked: "It was too bad that the only people who knew how to run the country were busy driving taxis and cutting hair."

So perhaps we don't always know quite as much as we like to think. Mr Gilmore himself once defiantly spoke of it being "either Labour's way or Frankfurt's way". In the end, walking the political plank proved to be the only way.

Irish Independent

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