Sunday 8 December 2019

Editorial: Labour leader faces the biggest test of his career

Labour is reaping the harvest of its own overblown rhetoric
Labour is reaping the harvest of its own overblown rhetoric

EAMON Gilmore faces very challenging times ahead. The most successful Labour Party leader in history has had a very difficult two years. On March 9, 2011, he led 37 Labour TDs into Leinster House, heading the largest ever party grouping at Leinster House.

In October 2011, the party won the presidential election and had the first by-election win by any government party in almost 30 years. Now, just 30 months later, it requires effort to actually recall those Labour high points as it has had more than its share of low points ever since.

This weekend, the Irish Independent/Millward Brown opinion poll indicated the party is in danger of losing all three of the European Parliament seats it won in 2009. It follows a slew of other polls, which do not bode well for the party in local council elections.

Today, the Irish Independent brings details of the first ever parliamentary party member to publicly state Mr Gilmore should quit as leader.

Sitting MEP Phil Prendergast of Ireland South is not a central party figure. Ms Prendergast has been a dissenting voice for some time and her scathing criticisms must be seen in the context of opinion poll ratings suggesting that her campaign is in deep trouble. But even taking those caveats on board, this is a serious development, which says much about the level of internal disarray in Labour right now.

People with only a passing interest in Irish politics have known that Mr Gilmore's leadership was going to be seriously questioned after the local and European election counts on May 24 and 25. But now the issue is being raised just as the campaigns kick off and in a way that will leave faithful party activists very dispirited indeed.

For Mr Gilmore, it is ironic that this is happening at a time when unemployment has fallen significantly and the economic outlook is generally promising. The coming weeks will see him facing the major challenge of his political career, which will call for much skill and fortitude.

 

Two powerful saints who helped change the world

ALL roads led to Rome yesterday as four popes took centre stage. Pope Francis was joined by the Pope Emeritus as two very recent and charismatic pontiffs – John XXIII and John Paul II – were proclaimed saints amid scenes of great joy and celebration. John XXIII and John Paul II were formidable world leaders who left a huge mark on the era in which they lived and worked.

Older Catholics will remember the avuncular poor farmer's son, Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli, for the extraordinary range of changes he ushered into the church after convening the Second Vatican Council in 1962. One of the great imponderable questions lingering to this day concerns the direction the church might have taken had John XXIII's reign not been cut short by his untimely death in June 1963.

Karol Wojtyla was also one of the most charismatic people of his time, a tireless pilgrim who visited many parts of the world as Pope John Paul II. As the first non-Italian Pope in 400 years, and as a proud Polish man, he played a huge role in political change in the old Eastern Bloc. He will long be remembered for his visit to Ireland in 1979, the first ever by a reigning pope.

The double canonisation comes as Pope Francis enters his second year in office. He has already shown himself to be an unusual and charismatic figure, the first pope from Latin America, and one who has modelled himself on St Francis of Assisi.

Many will see the twin canonisations as an effort to unite the more authoritarian elements in the church – epitomised by John Paul II – with advocates of change who look to the legacy of John XXIII. Pope Francis has already taken steps to open up a new dialogue within the church later this year. That process, and the work of the Holy Father, will be watched with great interest in Ireland and across the globe.

Irish Independent

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