Group of Labour councillors seeking support for move to oust Howlin

Group hoping to get signatures of over half of party’s 50 councillors on a letter calling for a new leader

Brendan Howlin: sources close to the Labour Party leader   insist that he will not stand down

Brendan Howlin: sources close to the Labour Party leader insist that he will not stand down

 

A group of Labour councillors is trying to muster further backing for a move to oust Brendan Howlin by garnering the support of over half of local representatives for a change of leader.

The councillors attempting to gather signatures for a letter hope it will culminate in a face-to-face meeting with Mr Howlin, where they will tell him it is time for him to go.

The move follows on from four councillors last week calling for a change of leadership, which in turn led to 16 other councillors signing a letter saying they “do not feel this is the right time for a change” at the top of the party.

Pamela Kearns and Mick Duff of South Dublin County Council, Noel Tuohy from Laois and Terry O’Brien from Kerry last week said Mr Howlin should resign.

Sources close to the Wexford TD, however, insist that he will not stand down, and say the councillors who have so far spoken out do not command support in the wider Labour Party.

Those looking to remove Mr Howlin hope they can get the signatures of over half of the party’s 50 councillors on a letter calling for a new leader.

One member of the parliamentary Labour Party dismissed the rumbling as the 'night of the plastic knives'

One of the organisers told The Irish Times that councillors needed to act because the parliamentary Labour Party was unlikely to do so, adding that the cause of the latest discontent was an opinion poll that put Labour behind the Independent Alliance.

Conversation

It was further argued that the letter of support for Mr Howlin showed the conversation around the leadership had already started.

If they are successful in getting the signatures the letter will be submitted to Dublin city councillor Dermot Lacey, in his role as chair of the Labour councillors’ group, and he will be asked to arrange a meeting with Mr Howlin.

Mr Howlin succeeded Joan Burton as Labour leader in May 2016.
Brendan Howlin succeeded Joan Burton as Labour leader in May 2016.

One source said the “natural conclusion would be sitting in front of Brendan Howlin saying ‘we need a change’.”

Mr Tuohy said he would sign such a letter, and said he had last week told Tipperary TD Alan Kelly he would back him to succeed Mr Howlin. Mr Kelly, he said, thanked him for his support, but was otherwise “non-committal”.

Mr Kelly has not returned calls seeking comment.

In order to remove a Labour Party leader a motion of no confidence must be carried by a two-thirds majority of the Central Council, which has over 50 members.

The Central Council is chaired by Jack O’Connor, the Labour chairman, who is also the party’s general election candidate in Wicklow.

Mr O’Connor, who was also president of Siptu until last Christmas, said he had not been contacted by anyone on the issue of the party leadership.

Mandate

“The present leader should be supported in fulfilling the mandate he has,” Mr O’Connor said, adding: “People in the Labour Party are concerned about fulfilling the role we should be fulfilling.” He repeated his call for a “complete reappraisal” of the centre left.

One member of the parliamentary Labour Party – comprising seven TDs and four Senators – dismissed the rumbling as the “night of the plastic knives”.

Yet a former party TD said the councillors were the “drivers” of the move because TDs and Senators would not act.

It was further claimed that those at the top of the party wanted to see if Senator Aodhán Ó Ríordáin made it back into the Dáil before then electing him to succeed Mr Howlin.

“The plan of the apparatchiks is…‘elect Aodhán Ó Ríordáin and bypass Alan Kelly again. If the Labour PLP don’t change leader now there won’t be a Labour Party after the general election’.”