Gilmore sets out his position as party leader

Little dissent towards Tánaiste at Labour parliamentary party meeting

Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore addressed his party's poor showing in recent opinion polls when the Labour parliamentary party met yesterday.

During a meeting that lasted for about two hours, Mr Gilmore was said to have given a firm address in which he set out his stall as leader, and pointed out that the party was doing what was best for the country’s economic recovery.

Party sources who attended the meeting said that despite obvious concerns about the party’s recent difficulties and public perception, there was little to no dissent towards the Tánaiste and that his leadership was not questioned.

One member who attended the meeting said however concern was expressed about Mr Gilmore’s role at the Department of Foreign Affairs and his regular absences from the country. Members believe the party would be better served if he had a more domestically focused ministry.


Mr Gilmore was said to have told the meeting that if there were concerns about his leadership there was a mechanism to remove him.

An Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI poll on Tuesday showed support for Labour had fallen to 6 per cent, its lowest point since 1987, and was 13 points below where it was in the general election 2½ years ago.

The poll also showed more of Labour’s own supporters were dissatisfied than satisfied with Mr Gilmore’s performance.

Rumours of pressure on Mr Gilmore's role at the helm of the party have been circulating in recent weeks, and Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton, seen as his most likely challenger, has had to publicly state her support for Mr Gilmore on a number of occasions.

On Tuesday the Tánaiste said he intended to complete his term as leader of the Labour Party notwithstanding the result of the poll.

A number of TDs and Ministers have since offered their public support to the leader.

Following yesterday’s meeting, one backbench TD said that while the poll result was daunting there was a “unity of purpose” during the discussion at the parliamentary party meeting, and it had been taken on board that the party may need to “communicate its message differently” to the public.

"Since he became leader in 2007, everything Eamon has put his mind to has been achieved," the TD said, before pointing to the party having its best ever general election result in 2011, its candidate Michael D Higgins had won the presidential election, and Patrick Nulty, who has since left the party, had won the Dublin West byelection.

Another TD described the meeting as "frank" and "positive", and said there were no serious mentions of discontent when it came to Mr Gilmore's leadership of the party.

Improve its standing
Party members believe the continued return of positive jobs and exchequer data will help Labour improve its standing before the local and European elections next year and the general election in 2016.

“Until people start to feel they are better off we do not expect the party to get a huge bounce,” said another TD.

Steven Carroll

Steven Carroll

Steven Carroll is an Assistant News Editor with The Irish Times