Gilmore plays down challenge to leadership
Tánaiste insists he will lead party into the next general election
Labour candidate for Dublin Emer Costello with Labour Party leader Eamon Gilmore at the Dublin City Sheriffs Office yesterday where Ms Costello signed her Election Nomination papers. Photograph: David Sleator
Mr Gilmore insisted that he still supported Ms Prendergast in her campaign to retain her seat in the Ireland South constituency of the European Parliament elections and stressed that standing by each other was a core value of the Labour Party.
Tipperary-based Ms Prendergast, a former nurse who took up the European Parliament seat when Alan Kelly was elected to the Dáil at the 2011 general election, said Mr Gilmore needed to resign and should be replaced by Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton.
When asked if there would now be sanctions against Ms Prendergast – who had insisted her call was reflecting the views of members at every level of the party – Mr Gilmore said: “Look, I’m relaxed about it, sometimes people say things in the heat of an election campaign. As far as I am concerned, she is the Labour Party candidate in Ireland South. I support her, the party supports her in her effort to be re-elected. A core value of the Labour Party is solidarity, standing with each other through thick and thin in good days and bad”.
Pressed on the issue and on Ms Prendergast’s suggestion of Ms Burton as the next party leader, Mr Gilmore said it was not helpful to engage in what was essentially “a family row” so close to an election.
“I don’t think that is wise and I don’t think it is helpful either for other Labour candidates who are contesting either the European or the local elections.
“I have a job of work to do. I have committed to doing that job, I intend to complete that job of work. I am leading this party and I intend to continue leading this party”, said Mr Gilmore, who was speaking in Athenry, Co Galway, at the opening of a HSE facility.
Minister for Communications Pat Rabbitte said the Labour Party had taken a “disproportionate share of the responsibility” for the cuts the Government had made.
When asked if he supported Mr Gilmore as party leader, Mr Rabbitte said “of course I do” but said he did not want to comment on what Ms Prendergast had said.
Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn said he fundamentally disagreed with Ms Prendergast’s comments. Speaking to RTÉ, he said Mr Gilmore had achieved the highest electoral results that Labour has ever had.
As senior Labour figures rallied around Mr Gilmore, Taoiseach Enda Kenny praised Labour’s performance and said he was confident the Government would remain in office for the duration of its five-year mandate.
Asked whether he had any concern that the situation in Labour could jeopardise the stability of the Coalition, Mr Kenny said both parties entered Government with their eyes open.
“It was never going to be easy. It was never a case of going into Government to be loved and liked,” he told reporters.“And I commend each of the Labour Ministers for the difficult decisions that they’ve had to make along with the Fine Gael Ministers.”