Howlin hints at Labour leadership bid

Junior minister Sean Sherlock rules himself out while other party members express interest

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

Tue, May 27, 2014, 20:41

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin hinted this morning he would bid for the vacant Labour Party leadership.

Eamon Gilmore announced his decision to step down yesterday in the wake of his party’s huge losses in the elections. The Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs made the announcement in Iveagh House after a meeting with Labour’s senior and junior Ministers.

Speaking on his way into Cabinet this morning, Mr Howlin said he would be part of the “reform” of the Labour Party along with colleagues. “I’ll be part of that. What role I’ll play I’m going to decide in the next day or two,” he said.

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Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton and Minister of State Alex White are two more names being mentioned as possible contenders.

Alan Kelly, Minister of State for Transport, told Tipp FM this morning he will be running for either leader or deputy leader but has yet to decide. Backbenchers Arthur Spring and Dominic Hannigan have also expressed interest.

Minister of State for Research and Innovation Sean Sherlock has ruled himself out of the Labour leadership contest. In a tweet sent this afternoon, the Cork East TD said: “I wish to confirm that I will not be a candidate for the leadership of The Labour Party”.

His office also confirmed would not be seeking the deputy leader’s position.

Labour’s executive board will meet this evening to discuss the matter and the party is expected to have a new leader by July 4th.

Referring to the motion of no confidence in Mr Gilmore put down by a group of Labour TDs yesterday, Mr Howlin said he would have preferred the Tánaiste to have been given space for full reflection before any action was taken.

However, when asked if he shared Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn’s assessment that the rebels lacked “courage and decency”, Mr Howlin said he would not use language like that about colleagues.

Mr Howlin said he understood people felt hurt and emotional after a poor election showing. “There’s a rawness about the last few days,” he said.

Mr Quinn had earlier been highly critical of the seven TDs and one Senator who had proposed the no confidence motion. “It’s not the Labour way to have threatened to put down a motion without having the courage or indeed the decency to contact the party leader,” he said on his way into the Cabinet talks.

Mr Quinn, himself a former Labour Party leader, said Mr Gilmore had decided to resign but was not given the space to make his announcement in a timely manner.

The motion submitted to the parliamentary party meeting was signed by seven first-time TDs and one Senator.

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