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Labour pains are still hurting

by OPINION By Jimmy Rhatigan

IT MAY take a miracle to get a Labour Party TD elected in Carlow/Kilkenny for the foreseeable future at least.

We all know you have to have a direct line in Heaven if you hope to achieve the oft nigh impossible.

Miracles don’t come in Lucky Bags.

The only other route for the Kilkenny Branch of the Party, and sadly it is a no-go area, would be to woo voters with the help of passionate Party devotees from another time.

Sadly, the latter are with O’Leary in the grave and may get quite upset as they ponder the decline of a Party that was once a local favourite.

For nigh half a century, Kilkenny/Carlow supporters of Labour got used to having a representative in Dáil Éireann.

What a mighty man he was.

The late Seamus Pattison spent 45 years in politics when he won respect at local, national and international level, as a TD, Minister, MEP, Ceann Comhairle, Leas Ceann Comhairle and Mayor of Kilkenny.

He took pride in representing working men and women, fought hard for Labour supporters and indeed others too;  and his policy was never promise anything you can’t deliver.


Seamus would be unique today as politicians of various hues, for the most part, do not enjoy esteem.

To be fair this is not merely a Labour Party problem. Older voters tend to believe that those who went before were the real deal.

That may not always be true, but in the case of modern politics, public representatives generally do not get the kind of respect that their fathers or grandfathers did.

Again this is not exclusively a Labour Party headache only as there is little apreciation and lots of suspicion of large chunks of those who are supposed to look after our needs in Dáil and Seanad Éireann.

What has to be disappointing for the Labour Party in our local constituency is that it has shrunk dramatically from having a wide and respected supporter base that won hearts and minds.

We think in particular of the political careers  of local councillors and aldermen, including  Joe Cody,  Tommy Martin and his wife Molly, Marie Fitzpatrick and Luke Boyle, all in the city, along with Michael O’Brien and  strong representation in Castlecomer, Thomastown, Bennettsbridge and Graignamanagh.


Along with a team of hard working public representatives, there was a strong foundation of solid Labour folk.

The latter included Jerry Davis, Charlie Smyth, Dick Kenny, Hughie Shiels, Paddy Culleton, Peggy Kerwick, Sadie Kelly, Billy Butler, Paddy ‘Chunky’ O’Brien Snr, Tommy Cummins, Nuala Ward, Hughie Shiels, Ned Lawless, Connie Power, Billy Roche and Denis McCormack.


There were others. North Kikenny’s Maurice Shortall was perhaps South East’s greatest vote-catching machine and a highly respected councillor.

Graignamanagh woman, Ann Phelan was elected a TD and then a Minister.

Ann was Carlow/Kilkenny’s first female TD and a great hope for those who may have been convinced that the Labour Party was still the natural home of the working male and female.

I was the former for decades and took real pride in voting for Seamus Pattison and several councillors.

In my younger years as a journalist in the Kilkenny People, if your mates found out that you were voting for any Party, other than Labour, they would not be impressed.

I no longer vote for the Labour Party, nor do I vote for any other Party en bloc.

Yes, I do vote, for a man or a woman who I believe may work for me, my family, relatives, neighbours and friends, not for any politician who may simply be building up a pension pot at my expense.

I know there is still a hard core of Labour Party aficionados in Kilkenny who would dearly love to bring back the good old days when Labour had respectable representation in Government.


People like former councilor and mayor, Seán Ó hArgáin and Gina Doolan, formerly McGhee, a daughter of my good pal, the late architect, Eugene McGhee, and their friends may dream what some would call the impossible dream.

That the Party has a long stairs to climb at local and national level, there is little doubt.

With a change of Party Leader from Alan Kelly, aka AK47, most likely to Ivana Bacik, some will hope for the effect of a new broom.

I doubt if that will happen. 

It is hard to fathom that a Dublin-based politician will stoke any fires in Kilkenny.

Varadkar, Martin and Ryan cut little ice here either.

Confidence or rather lack of it in that trinity would be akin to the chances of a one-legged man in a backside-kicking competition.

Alan may not have been everyone’s cup of tea but he displayed passion and a great love of James Connolly’s Starry Plough.

However, he may have fallen into the same trap as many of his colleagues by failing, or at least supposedly neglecting to support the party faithful at times of desperation.

If it is any consolation to Labour, it may not have as many problems as Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Greens.

The common denominators are that their Party Leaders are without vision and charisma and the modus operandi of too many of their TDs is to preach one thing to any remaining faithful and do the opposite in Dáil votes.

Perhaps it may be encouraging, if that is the proper description, for Labour that journalists and doctors may too have to repair their reputations post pandemic.


A majority of doctors and in fairness there are some great people in the medical profession, simply sang dumb as their colleagues were censored and even sacked because they had different views to the mainstream gospel.

Journalists played the same game.

Similarly, a majority of scribes at local, national and international level failed to ask the telling questions and for reasons best known to themselves acted as propagandists for Governments and Big Pharma.

Any Labour Party renaissance may be difficult but it just may not be as tough as for others in different professions.

Regardless of your problem, they is always someone worse off.

Perhaps we should all be thankful for small mercies as our world falls around our ears.

Meanwhile, Sinn Féin looks as if it may get a term in Government.

That remains to be seen and it will be interesting to see how it pans out.

The difference between SF and established parties that have been in Government is that SF has never pushed our people into any abyss.

Only time will tell as to whether or not we will get a gem or otherwise in power with Mary Lou’s poll toppers.

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