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Rabbitte outburst shows that Labour pains still run deep

Pat Rabbitte is not a happy bunny.

Less than a month since Joan Burton fired him and his fellow Labour veterans from cabinet, the ex-communications minister (below) has launched a stinging attack on the first-time TDs who were promoted instead.

His comments are easy to dismiss as sour grapes, but they show one thing very clearly - Labour remains a deeply divided party that may be doomed to disaster at the next election no matter who is in charge.

On the day that Rabbitte was given his marching orders, he wryly remarked that "age and chemistry" were to blame.

He has now lashed out at Alex White, Alan Kelly and Ged Nash, who have only been in the Dail since 2011 but are already sitting at the top table.

He claims to be "amused" by their unwillingness to serve an apprenticeship, but his bitter tone suggests anything but laughter.

Nobody can blame Rabbitte for feeling disappointed. First elected a TD back in 1989, he had to wait 22 years for his first senior ministry and desperately wanted to stay there for at least one Dail term.

sacked

He is good friends with Eamon Gilmore, but freely admits that he and Joan Burton have something of a personality clash - which explains why she sacked him in a conversation that lasted less than 30 seconds.

However, Rabbitte's self-pity would be easier to stomach if he accepted his own responsibility for Labour's unpopularity.

Time and time again over the last three years, his withering interviews implied that some Irish people are too dim to realise what a brilliant Government they have.

As one party canvasser ruefully noted, you could always tell when Rabbitte had been on the radio because voters were even more hopping mad than usual.

Before last month's reshuffle, this Government was mostly made up of ministers over 50 who have been drawing Dail salaries for decades and can look forward to fat state pensions as well.

With the best will in the world, it is hard for them to personally identify with the problems of a younger generation - unemployment, childcare costs and finding an affordable home.

The new lot may or may not make a difference, but most of us feel they should at least be given a chance.

Joan Burton is certainly prepared to gamble her future on them.

The first major opinion poll of her leadership last Sunday brought mixed news, showing that her popularity ratings are much better than Gilmore's but Labour support has only risen one point to 7pc.

To put it politely, that is not much of a Burton bounce - and it suggests that the party's problems cannot be solved overnight by a new face on their posters.

As Tanaiste, Burton must take ownership of some ticking time bombs threatening to explode when the coalition returns from holidays.

Top of her list is water charges - because it has become uncomfortably clear that our average bills could be over twice the €240 we were promised just a few months ago.

Pat Rabbitte is yesterday's man. Joan Burton now has an almighty task on her hands to prevent Labour from becoming yesterday's party.


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