Gilmore resigns after seven years leading Labour

Leader steps down after lengthy career in left-wing politics

Labour Party leader Eamon Gilmore, seen here in 2009, resigned today after seven years at the helm. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

Labour Party leader Eamon Gilmore, seen here in 2009, resigned today after seven years at the helm. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

Mon, May 26, 2014, 16:17

Eamon Gilmore’s resignation today brings to an end a seven year tenure as leader of the Labour Party.

During that time he lead the party to its best ever electoral performance, winning a total of 37 Dáil seats including 18 in Dublin in the 2011 general election, which saw it overtake Fianna Fáil and become the second biggest party in the State.

But the bombast from that campaign, including slogans such as ‘Gilmore for Taoiseach’ and ‘Frankfurt’s way or Labour’s way’ would come back to haunt the party as it implemented ever more unpopular austerity measures with senior Government partners Fine Gael.

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Born into a farming family in Caltra, Co Galway, in 1955, Gilmore attended secondary school in Ballinasloe before going on to study psychology at what was then University College Galway.

It was here he cut his teeth in electoral politics, becoming president of the college’s students’ union in 1974 and later president of the Union of Students in Ireland.

In the mid-1980s he became a member of the Dublin County Council and in 1989 was first elected to the Dáil as a Workers’ Party TD, having failed to win a seat in the 1982 and 1987 general elections.

He has been elected at every subsequent election and was among the six Workers’ Party TDs who formed Democratic Left (DL).

He was minister of state at the Department of the Marine during the Rainbow Coalition’ of Fine Gael, Labour and DL from 1994 to 1997 and helped negotiate the merger of DL and the Labour Party in 1999.

Following the resignation of Ruairi Quinn as leader of the Labour Party in 2002, Gilmore unsuccessfully competed for the leadership, losing out to Pat Rabbitte.

He sat on the Labour Party front bench as environment, housing and local government spokesman, before eventually replacing Pat Rabbitte, unopposed, as party leader in September 2007.

Following the 2011 election, he was appointed Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs in a coalition Government with Fine Gael.

As the the Coalition implemented austerity measures, rumblings of discontent began to emerge from the party. A number of Oireachtas members resigned the whip while councillors across the State also quit.

After Labour’s disastrous performance in the local, European and byelections on Friday, Gilmore quickly came under pressure from backbenchers to step aside and make way for a new leader.

This afternoon he said he believed “the party would be best served by having a new leader” and that he would remain on until such a time as one has been elected.

Addressing party members, he said: “It has been an honour to lead you and I look forward to working with you for a long time to come”, adding that he intended to contest the next general election in his Dún Laoghaire constituency.