Tuesday 16 January 2018

Ice cold for Alex as ageism row rumbles on

Party leadership hopeful is making all the wrong moves.

Alex White confirmed he will contest the leadership of the Labour Party at a press briefing on the Rosie Hackett Bridge in Dublin. Picture: Stephen Collins/Collins Photos
Alex White confirmed he will contest the leadership of the Labour Party at a press briefing on the Rosie Hackett Bridge in Dublin. Picture: Stephen Collins/Collins Photos
John Drennan

John Drennan

All eyes may have been on Niall Collins last week, but the most remarkable act of political immolation was actually committed by Labour Party leadership candidate Alex White at the party's Cork hustings.

There Mr White told the Labour hustings that it was time to move on from Labour's ancien regime and choose a younger candidate.

Apparently the representative of youth that Mr White was thinking of was a 55-year-old southside barrister called, oh dear, Alex White.

The rest of the unfortunate affair added to the growing sense that addled Alex appears intent on creating the unique precedent where having entered the leadership race to secure a senior ministry, he may yet end up losing his junior ministry.

That certainly appeared more likely after his warning in Cork that Labour had, if it wanted a future, to look beyond the, "14 men and women, members of our party, who served as ministers or ministers of state when Labour and Democratic Left were last in Government – in 1997''.

The mood became increasingly chilly as Alex noted Joan Burton was the "last woman standing'' of a generation where eight have now left the Dail with one going to the Presidency whilst "of the remaining six, three have since been party leader, and one (Emmet Stagg) last expressed an interest in being party leader a quarter of a century ago''.

The No Old Age Pensioners pitch was fairly blunt as Mr White added that "in 10 years' time, this party will be led by a new generation ... we can start the transition now or we can wait a few more years''.

In the wake of the latest gaffe one Labour source happily observed: "It was astonishing, he was speaking to the sound of silence and it wasn't a nice sort of silence; choosing a Labour Party meeting to give out about the role of pensioners in politics isn't exactly wise.''

The source added: "It is cheeky and misjudged. Who on Earth is this fellow to be criticising Micheal D or former party leaders.

"This is the fellow who lost us all our council seats with the medical card debacle.''

One source noted: "Ruairi, Pat, Emmet and the rest won't be too happy about being told they're only fit for the nursing home. Grumpy old men tend to be sensitive about those sorts of things. Kathleen Lynch didn't look very happy either."

The unfortunate candidate was even slammed by Senator John Whelan who, before the Portlaoise hustings yesterday, said: "I'm addressing the Labour Youth wing of the party at the Tom Johnson summer school and I am going to focus on the ageism that has crept into Irish politics."

He added: "We first saw it with Michael D, but it is astonishing to see it in a Labour Party that is supposed to prize equality and egalitarianism."

Another senior party apparatchik noted: "He's no spring chicken himself. The biggest round of applause in Cork occurred when one of the audience noted 'the problem Alex with you is that when you came in you were talking to your adviser and you stayed talking to your adviser; Joan came in and talked to the people'."

As one less than sorrowful Labour source noted: "It's ice cold in Labour for Alex and it's staying that way."

The state of Mr White's campaign was summarised by a cackle of: "The only supporters of Alex are a coalition of people who are terrified of losing their jobs."

Sunday Independent

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