Gilmore moves to steady Labour nerve
Tánaiste contacts TDs and Senators after byelection debacle and MEP’s resignation
Nessa Childers, who yesterday became the seventh member of the Parliamentary Labour Party to leave the fold, described the Meath East byelection result as “absolutely disastrous” and said she had felt a sense of “shame” at her inability to defend party policies. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons
Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore has been contacting his TDs and Senators following Labour’s poor showing in the Meath East byelection and the resignation of MEP Nessa Childers from the parliamentary party.
Some Labour representatives said they believed Mr Gilmore would vacate his post as Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade within months and seek a transfer to a domestic-based economic ministry.
Ms Childers, who represents Ireland East, yesterday became the seventh member of the parliamentary party to stray outside the fold. TDs Róisín Shortall, Colm Keaveney, Tommy Broughan, Patrick Nulty and Senator James Heffernan have defected from Labour.
Willie Penrose TD will return, having refrained from open criticism of the party since resigning the whip over the closure of an Army barracks in Mullingar.
Sense of shame
Ms Childers described the Meath East byelection result as “absolutely disastrous” and said she had felt a sense of “shame” at her inability to defend party policies.
Her dissatisfaction with the party’s role in the Coalition had been known but she had been “dismayed” by recent statements from Labour Ministers.
“They continue to insist that because of the dire economic situation there is no alternative to current . . . harmful conservative policies,” she said.
Ms Childers will address a group of party members opposed to Government policy at an event in Dublin this morning. The meeting convened by the Campaign for Labour Policies will discuss an alternative programme for government.
Chairman of the parliamentary party Jack Wall acknowledged calls for a review of the programme. “A review of ministerial portfolios would be part . . . of a review of the programme for government, which is nearly a given. The obvious one is that in relation to the party leader,” he said.
Mr Wall said Mr Gilmore had done an excellent job in restoring Ireland’s reputation abroad, but once the EU presidency concluded in June his position could be reviewed.
Mr Wall said he had met Mr Gilmore and they had agreed time would be set aside for TDs and Senators to discuss “major challenges” , when the party meets on Wednesday for the first time since the byelection.
Clare TD Michael McNamara described Ms Childers’s departure as disappointing. “Everyone agrees we need to reassess what our priorities are and how to deliver them,” he said.
Dublin Mid-West deputy Joanna Tuffy also said she had met Mr Gilmore and had a conversation about policy matters.
Labour’s MEP for Ireland South Phil Prendergast said she was supportive of Ms Childers, while Dublin MEP Emer Costello criticised her decision.