Brendan Howlin rules out Labour leadership bid

Joan Burton declares candidacy for party leader and says she will work with Fine Gael

Minister for Social Protection determined to work with Fine Gael and stay in Government, Mary Minihan reports.


Minister for Public Expenditure Brendan Howlin will not be a candidate for the leadership of the Labour Party.

Mr Howlin told the parliamentary Labour party of his decision this evening.

He had been seen as one of the main challengers to Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton.

Ms Burton announced her bid for the leadership of the Labour Party today.

Ms Burton said she was determined to work with Fine Gael as she made the announcement on the plinth in front of Leinster House at 2.30pm. Ms Burton said she wants Labour to stay in Government. She stressed a good working relationship with Taoiseach Enda Kenny.

“We have fallen short in giving our society care and repair,” she said. “Economic recovery must be allied with social recovery,” she said. The “‘vicious circle of decline” should be replaced by “virtuous circle of recovery”,she said.

She stressed core Labour values and said “these are my values”.

Ms Burton said she had been “an ordinary foot soldier of the Labour Party for a long time”. She has not done count of TDs who support her. Her leadership bid was proposed by Ann Phelan TD and seconded by Eamonn Moloney TD.

Earlier a Labour deputy has called for the entire Labour front bench to step down and a Minister in the party has said the deputy leader needs to come from the “newer generation” of TDs.

Meath East TD Dominic Hannigan said today “we need to see a total removal of them,” referring to the front bench, adding that he is considering going for the party leadership.

Asked if he was calling for a complete clear-out, the first-time TD said he thought that was necessary.

“What we don’t need is experience of 25 years in a bunker in Leinster House.”

“I don’t think that the answer is going to come from people who have been within Leinster House for the last quarter of a century,” he said.

“We need to look to the next generation. To people like Alex White, to people like (Louth TD) Gerald Nash,” Mr Hannigan said adding that he had been approached by many people suggesting he should run.

Labour Minister of State for Housing Jan O’Sullivan said today the deputy leader of the party should come from the “newer generation” of TDs.

Ms O’Sullivan said she was not running for either the leader or deputy position.

“I’m not running for leader and I do believe the deputy leader in my personal opinion should probably come from the newer generation of Labour Party public representatives, and we have some very fine people in that group,” she said.

Asked if she thought an older person should be leader, she said: “I don’t think it’s a matter of age maturity. I think it’s a matter of somebody who can do the very difficult job of being leader and also being deputy leader of the party,” she said.

“But certainly I do think that we need to see the younger generation, or rather the newer generation rather than younger, involved as well,” she added.

“I don’t think it matters what age you are. I think it is around having a mix of experience and new ideas.”

Mr Hannigan also warned that the Labour Party could disappear as a political force if radical changes were not made.

“There’s a real danger that after the next election, if we don’t do something serious and significant, that the party will be gone, gone the way of Kodak, gone the way of the PDs,” he said.

He said the promises made before the 2011 general election were “foolhardy”. The electorate had “lent” votes to Labour and had now “lent” them to Sinn Féin.

Mr Hannigan said what he described as the “removal” of former party leader Eamon Gilmore was “sad but necessary”.

Mr Hannigan was speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland ahead of the statement today by Ms Burton.

Eamon Gilmore stepped down on Monday following the party’s disastrous performance in the local and European Parliament elections on Friday.

Ms O’Sullivan lost out to Ms Burton for the position of deputy last time.

She has not yet decided who she was backing and said she would wait to see who was running before declaring.

Ms O’Sullivan said it was a tense time for the party. “We’ve obviously been through a very difficult time and lost a lot of very good colleagues.”

Meanwhile, Fine Gael Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar said the Labour Party’s issue was “none of his business”.

He did not anticipate tensions at Cabinet. “We are in a new scenario. It’s certainly my first experience of a change of leadership during a Government term.”

It is not clear if she will be opposed, or by whom.

Minister of State Alan Kelly said yesterday he would contest either the leadership or the deputy leadership, but had yet to make up his mind which position to go for. He said “a generational change” was needed at leadership level and claimed that he had received a lot of support in recent weeks from TDs, Senators and councillors.

His junior ministerial colleague Alex White is considering whether or not to put his name forward for one of the positions, but another junior minister, Seán Sherlock, has ruled himself out of the contest.

Nominations for the position are now open, following a meeting of the party executive board last night that agreed the arrangements for the election of a new party leader and deputy leader.

Ballot papers

Nominations will close at noon on Tuesday and ballot papers will be issued on June 9th if there is a contest for either position. The ballots have to be returned by noon on Friday, July 4th, and the count will take place immediately.

The party legal adviser, Richard Humphreys, will be the returning officer and the party auditors will be independent observers.

All 5,000 or so paid-up members of the party will be entitled to vote. Members are entitled to pay arrears going back two years to get on the register.

Labour sources said last night that members in arrears had already started to come forward with their €15 annual subscription fees to ensure their eligibility to vote.

It is expected that a number of hustings will be held around the country at which party members will be addressed by the candidates for both positions.

A number of TDs emphasised yesterday they wanted to see a contest for the leadership.

Mr Howlin said the party needed to respond very strongly to the message from the ballot boxes.