Early last year when Labour decided to hold this year’s centenary conference in Galway, they could not have foreseen just how different the picture would be. They had just been elected into power along with Fine Gael on a tidal wave of dissent against the incumbent incompetents. They had elected many new TDs, bright young things whom it seemed had lots to offer the party in this new coalition. Here in Galway, we provided two of them — Derek Nolan and Colm Keaveney — and they represented a refreshing change, and in the Seanad, Lorraine Higgins has also been groomed for greater things. Happy days for Labour in Government and in Galway.
And things were to get better, and once again, it would revolve around their Galway connections.
Although Michael D seemed to have lost his chance to become president when Sean Gallagher soared into a seemingly unassailable lead with just 100 hours to go before polling day, that all changed and Labour’s ascent continued. The picture ops were all red and the sight of Eamon Gilmore in celebratory mood became commonplace.
Tomorrow, he comes back to his county and his college, and this time the mood is different. A feeling abounds that Labour are being used as a battering ram by Fine Gael and this all comes after a week in which Education Minister Ruairi Quinn got the annual spanking from the irate teachers unions.
The party arrives in town tomorrow in a mood which should be celebratory but which will probably not be. Their main remit will be to get into town, make sure they are the front page pictures on Sunday and Monday, and get across the Shannon again with their dignity intact. But it may not be as simple as that.
There is considerable anger among the protest groups at Labour and there are many protests and events planned for the city this weekend in a bid to bring maximum embarrassment to the party.
Protests are planned by the Galway Alliance Against War, Glór Na Tuaithe - A Rural Voice, campaigners for St Francis Nursing Home, and the Turf Cutter and Contractors Association.
It is understood that the Galway Campaign Against the Household and Water Taxes; Occupy Galway; Anglo: Not our Debt Campaign; Vita Cortex occupation workers; Free Education for Everyone; the Socialist Workers Party; and the Right to Work Campaign will also be protesting.
Meanwhile, the Galway branch of the United Left Alliance will hold a counter conference tomorrow and Saturday in the Harbour Hotel.
To that end, security has been tightened around the conference venues, not against any form of terrorism, but against any form of embarrassing disruption which could easily see protestors being carried away by bouncers as the images on our front pages. The party knows that it does not want a repeat of the images from NUI some years back when Bertie Ahern was accosted by protestors.
It promises to be an interesting weekend in the city. Last Friday we had the Galway Food Festival and this week as the members of the left parties continue their fragmentation, it could be the Galway Feud Festival that hogs the headlines. Marx and sparks...