Analysis: Joan Burton’s tenure was short but significant

Labour party leader resigns two years after taking over from Eamon Gilmore

Joan Burton has resigned as leader of the Labour Party after less than two years in the role.

Joan Burton resigned as leader of the Labour party today, two years after taking over the reins from Eamon Gilmore.

Her tenure was short but significant. She wrote her name into the history books by becoming the first female leader of the Labour party.

But she also led the party to a bruising general election result where the number of TDs fell from 37 to seven.

The writing for the party had been on the wall from the moment it entered government in 2011 and its key election promises were overturned.


Joan Burton could do little to stop the trend. One of the first decisions she made when taking office was to call for a reassessment of the coalition’s priorities.

She did her best to build up a close relationship with Taoiseach Enda Kenny as her predecessor had done.

But many in Fine Gael did not trust Ms Burton and often blamed her for leaks from Cabinet.

They also blame her for preventing a November election when she encouraged Enda Kenny not to go to the country.

Within her own party Burton divided opinion. Many members felt she did not listen to their concerns.

One TD told said they raised serious objections to the proposal to reduce lone parent payments. “She listened to the civil servants and not her party. That really annoyed me.”

Others within the party saw her as the only person who fought for the party at the Cabinet table and a leader who fought for Labour when Fine Gael tried to press them into action.

One of the biggest concerns all members had was her relationship with Eamon Gilmore when he was leader and Alan Kelly when he was deputy leader.

It created an unneccessarily tense atmosphere in the party and often dominated media coverage when many members fought hard to place the spotlight elsewhere.

Burton’s tenure has and will continue to divide opinions among party members and the general electorate.

Despite securing increases in child benefit and the pension and being Labour leader when the same-sex marriage referendum passed Joan Burton did not endear herself to the public.

Burton is not retiring. She will remain a very strong, formidable politician who fights for Labour policies, despite often being shouted down by her male colleagues.

A new leader is now required to elevate the party once again. Just who that may be is the biggest obstacle for Labour.

The three contenders Alan Kelly, Brendan Howlin and Sean Sherlock will decide the future of the party.