Labour’s great unclenching follows clinical cancellation of Alan Kelly

It seems Alan Kelly’s leadership style left a lot to be desired, if a Labour staffer’s description of the mood in the party rooms following his clinical cancellation is anything to go by.

As colleagues gathered for pints in the Dáil bar with their soon to be former boss, one of them started whispering about “The Great Unclenching”. Stress levels, it seems, were already beginning to subside and our happy confidant reckoned that massage therapists in the vicinity of Labour HQ and Leinster House are in danger out going out of business now that everyone is starting to relax again.

The atmosphere in the party on Wednesday was very tense. The Three Horsemen of Alan’s Apocalypse – TDs Seán Sherlock and Duncan Smith, and Senator Mark Wall – had visited Kelly the day before to tell him the game was up. Senator Marie Sherlock was also a key player who “kept things on an even keel”. The plot to take out AK47 was finalised at a secret gathering of TDs and Senators in her Dublin home.

During Wednesday’s Leaders’ Questions in the Dáil, Sherlock and Smith sat directly behind Kelly looking distinctly uncomfortable. We would discover why a few hours later.

When Kelly took to the plinth that night in front of Leinster House to announce his resignation, he looked and sounded like a man in shock. On Friday morning he did an interview with his local radio station, Tipp FM. He sounded like he was still in shock.

Meanwhile, the Labour grassroots are rumbling about being left out of the process to select a new leader with the swift coronation of “Princess Ivana”, as some are calling her, seemingly already a foregone conclusion.

Deputy Bacik has been keeping her head down, although she is due to address the National Women’s Council of Ireland rally in Kildare Street on Saturday and will be taking the plunge in Dublin Bay on Sunday at a Labour Women’s Swim to raise money for Ukraine. Co-incidentally, having finally made the breakthrough to Dáil Éireann last July after years of trying, Bacik spent the morning of the Dublin Bay South byelection count swimming off the South Wall with her mother Rina.

As for the Three Horsemen of Alan’s Apocalypse, they seem set to form Bacik’s praetorian guard after her (unexpectedly) expected elevation. “Internal discipline will be required and that might not come from those traditionally seen to be closest to her,” said an insider.

The drama was watched with great interest by the other parties. Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael politicians were particularly impressed by how the Labour crew managed to keep a lid on their machinations for over a week. In the bar on Wednesday night, requests were made for copies of the manual.

Minister on parade

Cometh the hour, cometh the Green’s sash.

All the legends are going to be in New York City for the St Patrick’s Day parade. Ireland’s loss is the Big Apple’s gain.

Eamon Ryan will be the Government’s representative on the big day, joining the proud sons of the old sod (no fresh turf harmed in the making of Eamon’s parade) as they march down Fifth Avenue. The Green Party leader says he’s looking forward to the occasion.

Also stepping out is the former tánaiste and PD leader Michael McDowell who has been invited to walk in the parade by the city’s St Patrick’s Day Foundation. He is this year’s recipient of its St Patrick Award “for his service to the Irish nation” and will be presented with a marble “St Patrick’s Swan”.

We hope he doesn’t get a swelled head as a result of all this.

Senator McDowell will be honoured along with the parade Grand Marshall, James T Callahan (General President of the International Union of Operating Engineers) at a gala dinner on March 15th in Manhattan’s Sheraton Hotel. It’s a swanky affair, with sponsorship packages costing up to $50,000 (about €45,000) for a table of 12 (Diamond Package) and reserved seats at $500 a head.

It doesn’t look like Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald – a regular participant – will be marching this time. On March 17th she will be in Washington with Michelle O’Neill at the annual Speaker’s Lunch on Capitol Hill.

The 261st St Patrick’s Day Parade in New York will mark the anniversary of 9/11 and pay tribute to the Irish-American labour movement. It will also recognise the centenary of the formation of the Irish government.

Party – of the birthday kind

Speaking of McDowell, that diverse half dozen known as the Seanad Independent Group held a surprise 50th birthday lunch on Tuesday for their group administrator, Samantha Long. She is also McDowell’s right-hand woman and he organised the celebration in the Members’ Restaurant.

Given the make-up of this technical group (formed to ensure regular speaking slots and the right to publish Bills) it is very possible that Samantha has to control them with a whip and a chair.

The other group members are Senators Rónán Mullen, Sharon Keogan, Victor Boyhan, Gerard Craughwell and David Norris.

During the recent unveiling of a portrait of Norris, Seanad Cathaoirleach Mark Daly remarked that trying to keep manners on the Independent group is like herding cats. The group admin probably has to wear ear protectors as well.

The six Senators and their staff toasted Samantha and unveiled a special birthday cake made by Oireachtas catering queen Julie Lyons.

It was a Tuesday party for a Saturday birthday in a busy few days for the popular Leinster House staffer. Samantha, a Magdalene laundry adoptee, was one of the women who featured this week in the first part of RTÉ’s heartbreaking documentary, Ireland’s Dirty Laundry.

She said: “My mother was Magdalene Number 322, real name Margaret. Margaret was committed to an industrial school in 1954, age two years and four months. She left 49 years later in a coffin.” Viewers will learn more about Samantha and her sister’s birth mother, Margaret Bullen, in the second part of the documentary which airs on Wednesday.

Chips with everything

If a terrifying war in Ukraine wasn’t enough this week, who suddenly pops up again only George Lee with alarming news about accelerating climate change threatening our very existence. Then along comes a story about false widow spiders trussing up and eating baby bats. And then Alan Kelly is taken out as leader of the Labour Party in a bloodless coup hatched in the home of a first-time Labour Senator.

Thank heavens for Leo Varadkar. At least it seemed some small bit of good cheer was coming our way when a press release landed from the Department of Trade, Enterprise and Employment with the encouraging news that the Tánaiste has just launched “a public consultation seeking views on the proposed European Chips Act”.

It is built on three pillars. The first – and obviously – most important one is “A Chips for Europe Initiative”.

Count us in.

The second one focuses on “A framework to ensure security of supply”.

Well, absolutely.

And the final pillar envisages a co-ordination mechanism between member states and the European Commission which will include “monitoring supply and anticipating shortages”.

Pillars of chips for everyone. Marvellous.

Congratulations Tánaiste for this excellent public consultation exercise we can all get our teeth into. Obviously, there will have to be an expert group on vinegar, a potato symposium in Dublin Castle and a mediation process between the Rooster and Maris Piper factions.

This is what real government looks like.

What’s that?

Semiconductor chips? Used in numerous everyday products including smartphones and cars in addition to critical applications and infrastructure in health, energy, communications and automation and thus central to Europe’s digital and green transitions?

Stupid Leo. Stupid Government.

This has been a terrible week.

Some women left behind

The Oireachtas Women’s Caucus held a face-to-face meeting in Leinster House for the first time since the 2020 general election. Circumstances could have been better for the occasion and we hear the atmosphere was a tad frosty at times. Feelings are still bruised over the decision by the National Women’s Council of Ireland not to invite female politicians from Government parties to address its big rally outside Leinster House on Saturday.

High profile Opposition politicians including Mary-Lou McDonald, Ivana Bacik, Róisín Shortall and Bríd Smith will speak at the No Woman Left Behind event “calling for political leadership and change to truly advance women’s equality”.

TDs and Senators excluded from the “Government Women Know Your Place” event seem to have pulled back from the row – but they are still silently fuming over what happened.

The dispute over who was and wasn’t invited to speak spilled over to more general criticism of the council for a perceived lack of diversity among the listed speakers. The organisers moved quickly to correct the balance.

On the eve of the protest, which is due to start at noon and last for an hour, the NWCI had a list of people who will grace the platform “including” 20 named speakers. That leaves three minutes per person at the microphone.

Good luck with that.

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