Burton begins canvassing Labour TDs

Labour leader election is Minister for Social Protection’s to lose, says party insider

Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton arrives at Iveagh House, Dublin, yesterday prior to the announcement of Eamon Gilmore’s resignation as Labour Party leader. Photograph: Eric Luke

Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton arrives at Iveagh House, Dublin, yesterday prior to the announcement of Eamon Gilmore’s resignation as Labour Party leader. Photograph: Eric Luke

 

The majority of Labour Party TDs are reserving their positions on who to support in the leadership race until all candidates have declared.

However, Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton was phoning backbenchers last night in the immediate aftermath of Eamon Gilmore’s resignation as party leader.

The majority of TDs contacted declined to go on the record with their views, with one deputy saying of Ms Burton’s calls last night: “She is hardly calling to talk to me about social welfare.”

Dublin Mid-West TD Robert Dowds said he was contacted by Ms Burton last night and had agreed to meet her. He also said he had been contacted regarding the leadership before yesterday by Alex White, Minister of State at the Department of Health.

Conversations “I’ve certainly had conversations with Alex White,” Mr Dowds said. However, he would not say who he will be backing.

Carlow-Kilkenny TD Ann Phelan was the first to declare her support for Ms Burton, while Senator John Gilroy has said he will support Alex White.

While numerous TDs declined to go on the record with comments, one senior deputy said he would support Minister for Public Expenditure Brendan Howlin on the basis that he will be able to get the party through the tough budget at the end of the year.

Sources in Mr Howlin’s camp said he had been contacted by numerous members of the parliamentary party expressing their support for his candidacy.

Six-week election process While a string of TDs have either declared an interest or are said to be interested, numerous figures in the party said a wide range of candidates will suit Ms Burton because it will split the vote in the anticipated six-week election process.

“She has done the work over the past three years, it is hers to lose,” said one senior figure.

Almost all TDs paid tribute to Mr Gilmore, saying he had done an excellent job in bringing the party to where it is now.

Meath East TD Dominic Hannigan, one of those who tabled the motion of no confidence in Mr Gilmore, said the move was tough but necessary.

Minister of State at the Department of Enterprise Seán Sherlock said it was a “very sad day” for Mr Gilmore but said he was giving “some consideration” to standing for the leadership himself.

Minster for Communications Pat Rabbitte and Minister for Education Ruairí­ Quinn are not expected to endorse any candidate, given their positions as previous party leaders.

Kerry TD Arthur Spring – another who is considering running for the leadership – said Mr Gilmore’s resignation was sad but was needed to bring renewal to the party.