Gilmore shrugs off Labour MEP’s call to quit as party leader
Phil Prendergast says Joan Burton should be next Labour chief
Mr Gilmore insisted he still supported Ms Prendergast in her bid 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.
The Tánaiste, asked whether there would be sanctions against Ms Prendergast - who had insisted her call was merely reflecting the views of party members at every level - 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 Joan Burton as the next party leader, Mr Gilmore acknowledged it was not helpful to engage in what was essentially “a family row” within weeks of 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.
On the issue of Labour’s continuing drop in support in the opinion polls, the Tánaiste stressed he had seen opinion polls before and they were not elections.
“If I believed opinion polls, our candidate wouldn’t have won the presidential election in 2011. Opinion polls are, of course, important, and every politician does pay attention to them. But that’s why we have an election campaign - to take our case, to make our argument, to make our case to the people.
“The poll that matters is the poll when people mark their ballot paper on the 23rd of May. And between now and the 23rd of May the Labour Party will be taking its case to every individual in this country, stating clearly that what we have done over the course of the past three years is... taken this country out of the bailout, taken the country from the brink of bankruptcy, seeing recovery happening again - and we are going to complete that job.
“Completing that job means getting more people back to work, seeing living standards improve and seeing our public services improve. That’s what the Labour party is about and that’s what we are going to continue doing.”
Mr Gilmore acknowledged that, in government, the Labour party has had to take decisions that are unpopular, but insisted that, deep down, most people realised the decisions were necessary to ensure the country recovered.
“There is a problem however, in that that recovery isn’t experienced by many people. It’s one thing to hear about recovery - it’s another to experience it.
“So, the next phase of what we have to do is make that recovery real in the lives of people, that they get jobs, that people who have emigrated are able to return, that the problems of mortgages are being resolved, along with the problems of housing and our health services.”