“There are two in that inner circle: Aoife and Pat”

Joan Burton’s family her closest advisers

Joan Burton with  her daughter Aoife and husband  Pat at the Mansion House yesterday. Photograph: Collins

Joan Burton with her daughter Aoife and husband Pat at the Mansion House yesterday. Photograph: Collins

Sat, Jul 5, 2014, 01:00

Joan Burton’s inner circle consists of two people – her husband and her daughter, according to those who know her.

“There are the hired advisers, there is the wider network around Joan and there is the inner circle, and there are only two in that inner circle: Aoife and Pat,” said one person close to her.

“They are very much a political unit, but a private one,” says another person familiar with the Tánaiste, her husband, Pat Carroll, and their daughter, Aoife, her two closest advisers.

The relationship between husband and wife is cast in the same light as the one between another couple at the top of Irish politics, Enda Kenny and his wife, Fionnuala.

When asked who might expect preferment under a Burton leadership, one of those closest to her said: “The only people who know that are up on the Old Cabra Road,” a reference to their family home on Dublin’s northside.

Carroll, originally from Dundalk, met Burton through involvement in Labour and they were married in 1975, less than a year after they first met. He ran for the Dáil twice, in Dublin Cabra in 1977, when he came fourth in a three-seater, and in Dublin Central in 1981, and was an alderman on Dublin City Council between 1975 and 1983, but he took a back seat as Burton began her long march to the position she now holds.

‘Thoughtful and measured’

Recently retired from his job as a maths lecturer in Dublin Institute of Technology, Carroll stays in the background and is not a regular around Leinster House or Burton’s department.

“Aoife would spend more time in Leinster House than Pat,” said one Labour source.

He is also described as “her director of elections for every campaign she’s run” and his increased presence around Leinster House in the immediate aftermath of Eamon Gilmore’s resignation bore that out.

“He comes across as quiet but he is thoughtful and very measured,” said another familiar with the pair.

“He is essentially a wise counsel. She’s more of a people person.”

Another said: “They are the most political people I’ve met. Even when they’re relaxing they’re talking about politics. It’s like one permanent campaign; Bertie was a bit like that.”

Those who work closely with Burton say Carroll’s influence on her thinking can be identified in how she addresses certain issues.

“He has a very long-term view of things. He can spot things that could cause problems months down the line.”

Both Burton and Carroll felt in recent years that she would have made a “better leader than Gilmore”, and could see mistakes being made by Labour.