Monday 22 January 2018

Gilmore happy to escape from gathering unscathed

Labour leader Eamonn Gilmore arriving at the Labour Party annual conference in Killarney
Labour leader Eamonn Gilmore arriving at the Labour Party annual conference in Killarney

THE sense of relief was palpable among Labour's great and good late on Saturday night in the minutes after Eamon Gilmore's speech had concluded.

In a fifth floor reception room in the INEC in Killarney, Mr Gilmore, his ministers, and other leading party lights mingled with quiet satisfaction that they had made it through the weekend unscathed.

The mood in the room was helped by the election of young SIPTU policy analyst Lorraine Mulligan as party chairperson minutes before.

The young Longford native defeated veteran Ray Kavanagh by 318 votes to 296.

She won't be as troublesome as Colm Keaveney was for the leader.

The novelty of normality was one of the overriding themes of the Labour Party conference at the weekend.

In its 1,000 days in office, Labour ministers, TDs, senators, delegates and indeed we in the media collectively, have become accustomed to the turbulent seas which have engulfed the party.

But the weekend passed without any major embarrassment for leader Eamon Gilmore.

The mood was good, buoyed by the latest jobs figures and a decent opinion poll the previous Sunday.

The presence of recently returned TD Willie Penrose added to the sense of muted contentment.

On Saturday, ahead of his televised speech, Mr Gilmore appeared relaxed as he strolled through the expansive hotel, chatting to delegates who wanted their moment in his reflected glory.

A short time later, the conference main hall was cordoned off to allow the leader to practise his speech, but the picture feed into the media room was left on – much to the amusement of watching journalists.

While Mr Gilmore prepared, Jack O'Connor and SIPTU managed to embarrass him by squeezing through a rather far fetched amendment to a property tax motion. The motion, now party policy, called on all social welfare recipients, middle income earners burnt by the financial crash and many others to be exempt from the property tax.

Then a touted breakaway by disgruntled delegates failed to live up to expectations. A notice was sent out that the group was to gather at the front of the INEC and go to a nearby hotel to discuss how they could "reclaim the Labour Party". However, it was a bit embarrassing when the number of journalists checking the story out outnumbered the group of four dissidents by two to one.

Tennyson once wrote of "the quiet sense of something lost" but for Mr Gilmore the conference was a case of a quiet sense of something gained for the Labour Party.

Irish Independent

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