Saturday 16 December 2017

New boy is no Jedward but to Labour he's a real star

Lise Hand

OH WOW. This was gonna be so cool. Following a week when our political leaders appeared to be losing members with the same disquieting frequency as our rugby team ceded points in Paris on Saturday, it looked as if Eamon Gilmore was set to buck the trend.

For despite having watched both Enda Kenny and John Gormley getting ambushed last week by their respective in-house ingrates, George and Deirdre, Eamon took the brave step of unveiling a new member of the Labour family yesterday.

The media were alerted in advance by an email which heralded that an as-yet-unnamed "significant new recruit" would be rolled out just after noon.

Who could it be? It obviously wasn't one of the two black sheep -- George Lee is now doing a fast over-arm crawl back to the Montrose Mothership, while Deirdre de Burca might be regarded by Labour as a bit of a political hot potato, albeit an organic Green one.

Then word filtered out before the grand unveiling at the party's headquarters on Ely Place. The new Labour member was none other than John Kelly.

Well, quelle surprise, as they might say on John's arts show, 'The View'. The RTE/Lyric broadcaster is indeed smart, erudite and a great talker, but he never gave the impression that he was longing to swap The JK Ensemble for the Labour choir.

Still, it'd be fun asking John what it was like to meet Bono and Yoko Ono and Bowie and it created an automatic vacancy in RTE for George to fill.

But alas, when Eamon Gilmore appeared through the scarlet door of the party's HQ with his new significant recruit in tow, it turned out to be another John Kelly entirely.

Dang. Not that the Labour leader seemed to mind. He was clearly delighted to have nabbed this John Kelly, a hitherto-independent member of Roscommon County Council, with a view to running him as a candidate in Roscommon-South Leitrim at the next general election.

"He headed the poll with two quotas in the 2009 local elections and contested the last general election, winning 4,500 first-preference votes in Roscommon-South Leitrim. He's somebody that I'm very, very pleased to welcome as a member of the Labour Party," added Eamon, looking very chuffed indeed.

"I'm from the west of Ireland myself and I occasionally pick up the 'Roscommon Herald' to see what's going on. John is somebody who's caught my eye for some time," he declared.

And the admiration appeared to be mutual. John, who was sporting an eye-catching pink tie (that'll have to go, as it clashes with Labour red), was quick to praise his new party.

"I'm delighted to now be a member of the Labour Party," he declared. "I've been watching the Labour Party for the last number of years and in recent times, and all of their issues are a mirror image of my own issues," he added.

However, he also wanted to make something else clear.

"I don't have opinions on everything and I wouldn't like to think that anybody -- including the media -- think that I have or should have an opinion on everything," explained John, further underlining the difference between himself and Fine Gael's former significant recruit, who had an inexhaustible supply of opinions.

But perhaps in the still-choppy wake of George's departure, all parties will be a little wary before rolling out another political Jedward as a vote-getter.

Certainly when it comes to Dublin South, Labour will stick with their original candidate, Senator Alex White.

"He finished second -- he was the favourite until the entry of George Lee," Eamon pointed out, adding, "We'll be offering the electorate of Dublin South an opportunity of doing the repeats in the next by-election".

That is, unless Fine Gael are plotting to run Charlie Bird. Or the other John Kelly.

Irish Independent

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