Dr. John O Connell Takes Labours Pulse

THAT enfant terrible of the Labour Party, Dr. John O'Connell, has fought with his colleagues in the party throughhout his career in politics. He has done so with relish and resourcefulness, and though on several occasions there have been murmurings about expullsion, and about even worse things like promotion to party office, he has managed to hold on.
On one occasion in 1972, when he had launched an attack on the party leadership for not doing any leading, the party's Administrative Council sent Chairman Roddie Connolly to issue an order to O'Connell to stop criticising the leadership.

Rich in years, Connolly, by the time he had climbed the three flights to O'Connell's office, was well out of breath. O'Connell, who had a fair idea of what Connolly was there for, met him at the door, his genial face creased with concern. "You're not looking at all well, Roddie. Let me take your pulse." The good doctor sat Connolly down, sucking on his lips and frowning at his watch. "Not good," he said, after a minute of grave suspense. "Not good at all. I think I'd better check your heart and blood pressure."

The check was made.

"You're overdoing it," said O'Connell, and he wrote out a prescription. "Take things easy. " And before Connolly knew where he was, he was out and on his way to the local chemist.

Back at the next Administraative Council all eyes were on Connolly. "Well," he was asked, "and what did Dr. O'Connell say?" "He told me I'm overdoing things," said Connolly. "I'm to take things easy."

One can forgive O'Connell the relish with which he treats the fairly frequent confrontaations he has with his party if that is the outcome. The latest in the series is the row looming up over O'Connell's candidacy for a European seat. He stands easily the best chance of getting the Dublin seat which is Labour's due; but it is almost inevitable that Labour will do its best to frustrate such an outtcome. What is annoying the party at the moment is the welcome that O'Connell gave to Minister Haughey's announceement on free hospitalisation.

To doctrinaire Labour men, though Haughey's decision meets with their demands, and goes a great deal further than their former leader went when he was in power, it was wrong to welcome it, and O'Connell's endorsement will be used against him between now and the Dublin selection conference in Liberty Hall on October 26.

The in-fighting neither begins nor ends there. In Munster, Michael O'Leary was ready and willing to stand, and seemed to offer the best prosspects for a Labour seat. But, with Eileen Desmond there as a sitting deputy, some kind of endorsement from the party leadership was necessary to get O'Leary accepted. It was not forthcoming.

As a consequence, O'Leary has pulled out of the Munster race, where Desmond will be endorsed on a losing ticket when the convention to select candidates is held in Cork on October 22, and O'Leary is now running in Dublin. Barry Desmond also has his eyes on a European nomination, and Jane Dillon-Byrne of Dun

Laoghaire will probably go on the ticket in a bid for the women's vote.

Connaught-Ulster will have the first selection convention, on October 8, and Michael D. Higgins and Seamus Scally are nervously eyeing each other, and weighing up the advantages and disadvantages of going as European Parliament candidates in a constituency which has no possible Labour seat. A try for Europe rules out a place on a local election ticket.

In Leinster, there are three leading Labour candidates: former party leader Brendan Corish, former Minister Justin Keating, and Luxembourg representative Liam Kavanagh. The convention is in Newwbridge on October IS. At present Keating is saying he won't stand, and waiting immpatiently for an announcement from Wexford. No calculation can give Labour a Leinster seat, but it stops nobody from hoping.

In other Labour news, Brendan Halligan, Labour Party General Secretary, is said to be rising up again with the gleam of battle in his eye, set to fight for a local government seat next summer. Dail, Senate, Corporation: how are the mighty fallen! And General Secretary still, in spite of all. No wonder Scally has his forlorn eyes fixed on Europe. But then, so have they all, with the possible exception of John O'Connell: He'd do well to check his own pulse and blood pressure; as for his heart-as ever, it remains in the right place.