herald

Tuesday 14 August 2018

Bruised Rabbitte's back on the trail with his wit intact

IT hasn't gone away, you know. Rest assured, Pat Rabbitte's legendary caustic wit is still intact, despite the fact that his latest salvo almost resulted in a public flogging and the stamp of "sexist" on his forehead.

Yesterday, battered and bruised, the former Labour leader emerged from the furore and braved the public on the doorsteps of Killinarden in his constituency of Dublin South West.

It looks as if he's heading straight back to the eye of the storm when a door opens and a middle-aged woman spots him, gasping: "Oh, Pat Rabbitte. You were in the paper last night for... oh I won't say what."

Mercifully, after pointing at the oversized elephant in the estate, she moves on. Yet it seems there's no getting away from the outsized controversy that ensued on Monday when Pat dared to comment on the female members of Micheal Martin's newlook Fianna Fail front bench.

The veteran TD and author of many spectacular one-liners had pondered on live radio whether Micheal would have been as well off going down to Grafton Street and rounding up good-looking women for a photograph, given that two of the front bench are not members of the Oireachtas.

He swiftly apologised for causing any offence, but it seems Pat isn't about to waste any further time on a controversy he dismisses as "the froth of politics", which has "nothing to do with the real issues".

Okay, so all is forgotten. I venture a question on the fortunes of Fianna Fail following last week's change of leader and the impressive approval ratings for the new incumbent Micheal Martin.

Pat responds with a snort: "Change of leader me granny. Actually I better say "me grandfather" in case I get into more trouble," he sniffs. So there it is again.

In any event, he had a serious point to make about Fianna Fail's new-look front bench, which he says is "a joke. Do Fianna Fail take people for fools? Micheal Martin is leading a party that pretends to be in Opposition and Brian Cowen is leading a party that pretends to be in Government".

And he feels there's nothing new about Micheal Martin, who's "still the same smug altar boy face who sat in Cabinet and participated in every bad decision made in the last 15 years".

Oh, and lest you're still concerned that a rampant sexist lurks underneath that mildly grumpy yet avuncular exterior, several of his loyal constituents have no such concerns.

Voter Edel Cleary greets him warmly at the door, having previously sought his help on a number of issues. "He's brilliant", she confides. "He's definitely getting my number one."

Her neighbour Olive Curtis is equally supportive, telling the TD: "Please God you'll get in, and do a good job when you get in."

You might say Pat Rabbitte is blessed among women in Tallaght.

Alas, if Labour's finest has been anointed the saviour of Dublin South West, nobody has yet convinced local man William Elliot. It's Pat's first setback on an otherwise glowingly positive canvass, and he looks rather startled when William tells him: "I normally do vote for you, but I'm not this time. It's a disgrace, everything that's happened, the whole situation needs to be changed."

Pat attempts to set out his stall, offering up Labour as the viable alternative, but William points out the one obvious stumbling block, telling him: "You don't have enough for an overall majority."

Pat tries again, insisting: "We weren't involved in making bad decisions."

Father and son Terry and Gavin Delves are keen to discuss the economic crisis, with Terry laughing: "I wouldn't like to be the Fianna Fail fella going around here." Pat guffaws, a mischievous twinkle in his eye as he beams: "Sure Bertie said last week he didn't know how the whole thing happened. Thanks be to God nobody believes him any more."

One gets the sense that for all his ire at the "sexism" hysteria, Pat never wants to find himself in that kind of position. After all, the only thing worse than courting controversy for your flippant remarks is discovering that nobody gives a damn what you say any more.

afinneran@herald.ie

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