Howlin offers to meet Labour councillors amid leadership crisis

Party leader tries to head off challenge to his position in ‘divide and conquer strategy’

Labour Party leader Brendan Howlin at Leinster House, Dublin. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Labour Party leader Brendan Howlin at Leinster House, Dublin. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

 

Labour Party leader Brendan Howlin has offered to meet all his councillors one on one as he seeks to head off a challenge to his leadership.

Mr Howlin sent two letters to councillors in recent days: one to those who have publicly called on him to discuss future party strategy, including the leadership, and another to those who have backed him or remained silent.

A group of 14 councillors who signed a letter calling for a meeting with Mr Howlin to discuss his position wanted to hold the meeting as a group, and some are now organising a fresh letter rejecting the Wexford TD’s proposal.

Their letter followed another from 16 other councillors who supported Mr Howlin.

“It is a divide and conquer type strategy,” one of those opposed to Mr Howlin said of his offer of one-on-one meetings. “We will be responding. It was a group request for a group meeting. The prospect of 14 councillors sitting in the corridor of Leinster House dressed in their Sunday best waiting for a meeting for headmaster is not something that appeals to me.”

Concerns

Labour TDs and Senators have, so far, backed Mr Howlin. Tipperary TD Alan Kelly, who has ambitions of leadership, has made no comment on Mr Howlin directly.

Earlier this week, Mr Howlin vowed to continue to lead Labour. He had initially asked all councillors to attend the Labour pre-Dáil think-in in Drogheda next month, and said any concerns they had could be discussed there.

However, his two letters sent in recent days saw a change of approach. In the letter sent to those opposed to him, he repeated that “any matter of concern” could be raised at the think-in.

He said he had received their letter of last week, which asked to discuss the “party leadership and the need for change”. Sketching out a number of party policies, Mr Howlin added: “As a smaller party, we all need to work together to advance our vision of a more socially just, economically equal Ireland. ”

He said he is available for meetings next week, and said he is available for a phone call for anyone who wants to ring him directly. The letter to other councillors was broadly similar.

Separately, Jack O’Connor, the party chairman, said that Labour should jointly organise in Northern Ireland with the UK Labour party if the SDLP and Fianna Fáil merge.