Friday 17 January 2020

Rabbitte lashes speedy rise of the young guns

Pat Rabbitte
Pat Rabbitte
Pat Rabbitte
Environment minister Alan Kelly launched the report
Alex White
Minister for Business and Employment Ged Nash

Daniel McConnell

Former Labour minister Pat Rabbitte has strongly criticised Tanaiste Joan Burton's appointment of first-time TDs Alex White, Alan Kelly and Ged Nash to Cabinet.

In his first major interview since leaving office, Mr Rabbitte said that he has "great difficulty" with people who were elected for the first time in 2011 making it into Government.

"I have difficulties with the proposition that in your first Dail term you ought to be a Cabinet minister, and by your second you ought to be Taoiseach," he said.

He took issue with the idea that the Monday after a count is over that you should move into Government Buildings, as some in the 2011 generation feel they should.

Asked is it not better than having to wait 20 years before becoming a minister, Mr Rabbitte responded sharply: "No it is not."

"Everybody ought to serve an apprenticeship. Going back to 1922, politicians, ministers who don't serve an apprenticeship, it is apparent in their performance," he said.

"It amuses me, I hope it is for the betterment of the country but we will wait and see," he added.

Speaking three weeks after losing his job as Communications Minister, Mr Rabbitte revealed his lingering sense of disappointment at being dropped by Ms Burton from Cabinet, insisting he had signed up for the full term.

"Of course I wanted to stay on," he said.

Mr Rabbitte was also critical of the manner in which he learned of his fate, accusing Ms Burton of sacking him through the pages of the Sunday Independent.

"I pretty much knew from the Sunday Independent the previous Sunday, I take myself as being fired from the date of the Sunday Independent. I regard myself as being fired through the Sunday Independent," he said.

Mr Rabbitte also gave voice to his notoriously poor relationship with Ms Burton. "I think most people around Leinster House know the new Tanaiste and myself have never tended to socialise together, let me put it that way," he said.

He insisted he did not issue her with a last-minute plea to keep his job, despite his desire to remain on.

"All I know is of my own engagement which as I have said publicly, didn't last long - lasted for less than half a minute," he said.

Asked why it was so short, he said: "Well there isn't anything to say. You are either in or you are out. The only words I said was that I wished the new Tanaiste luck. There was no last-minute plea".

Mr Rabbitte said that despite his unhappiness, he realised the need to be philosophical about his demotion.

"As a former leader of the party, I just simply have to accept a new leader is entitled to pick his or her new team," he said.

It is clear Mr Rabbitte has found the adjustment to life after Cabinet difficult. Finding a new office was one of the traumas he has had to overcome. He has taken over the office vacated by recently-promoted junior minister Kevin Humphreys. He has also had to begin driving himself around again.

Mr Rabbitte accused the so-called 'gang of eight' Labour TDs who tabled a motion of no confidence in former Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore of acting contrary to the Labour way of doing things.

"Well Eamon had decided to step down on Sunday, and Brendan Howlin will corroborate that is the case. I think it was unfortunate they put it into the public domain. I think Ruairi Quinn is correct that has not been the Labour way of doing things," he said.

On Labour's future electoral prospects, Mr Rabbitte admitted it is very unlikely that the party would come anywhere near its 2011 result of 19pc of the vote and 37 seats.

"It is unlikely we will replicate the highest-ever result achieved by the party in its 100-year history. It is unlikely that will be repeated at the next election. That is not to say that the party can't put in a very good performance," he said.

"There was a brief period after the election result where some young deputies were disowning the achievements of the party in salvaging this country's economic viability. Thankfully that didn't last long because that is the party's achievement in this Government," he said.

"The worst thing the Labour Party could do is disown its achievement in office," Mr Rabbitte said.

Irish Independent

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