Joan Burton urged to quit at Labour Party meeting

Party leader says she will act ‘in interests of the party’ once new government is formed

Labour Party leader Joan Burton has said she will act in the best interests of the party after hearing calls for her immediate resignation at a meeting in Dublin attended by general election candidates and former TDs.

A number of TDs in the last Dáil who lost their seats, including Ciarán Lynch and Michael McCarthy, and outgoing Senators John Whelan and Mary Moran insisted a change of leadership was necessary.

Mr Lynch said it was a time to rebuild and a new leadership was required while Mr McCarthy said Ms Burton’s leadership needed to end “sooner rather than later”.

Speaking after the meeting Mr Whelan said: “The belief seemed to be a change in leadership should happen sooner rather than later and that it was not in the best interests of the party to have a long drawn-out process. However, it was widely acknowledged that a change in leadership wasn’t sufficient and a radical restructuring and reform of the party was necessary.”

Ms Burton told the meeting she did not believe a government would be formed for another month. At that point she would do what was in the “best interests of the Labour Party”, she said.

Timeline

The meeting was attended by the party’s election candidates and TDs in the last Dáil who did not stand for re-election.

Speakers requested Ms Burton to outline a timeline for her departure as leader and the process for choosing her replacement. Senior figures said they believed the parliamentary party should decide on an agreed candidate for leader, with some expressing the view it should be acting Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Brendan Howlin.

However, others asked whether the party membership’s views should be sought. No conclusion was reached but several speakers said the party could not fight another election with the same leader.

The six-hour meeting discussed the election campaign, the party’s communications strategy and the television debates and their effect.

Speakers also strongly criticised Ms Burton for her fractious relationships with former leader Eamon Gilmore and deputy leader Alan Kelly.

The former party whip, Emmet Stagg, who lost his seat in Kildare, told the meeting the state of these relationships unnecessarily undermined the party and forced constant media questions about them.

Mr Stagg said Ms Burton’s criticisms of Mr Gilmore during the election campaign were highly damaging.

Controversial comments

Mr Kelly’s media persona and his controversial comments in a Sunday newspaper interview were also criticised at the meeting. He said he regretted saying “power is a drug” and apologised for any damage it caused to the party.

The meeting also discussed whether the party should play a role in the formation of the next government. Some outgoing TDs questioned how and why the parliamentary party had decided to remain in opposition.

However, the prevailing view of the meeting was for Labour to stay out of talks on the formation of a government and the vote for taoiseach in the Dáil. It is widely expected Labour will abstain in this vote in the Dáil next week.

The party also discussed the effect the election will have on its State funding and staff levels.

Senior figures were encouraged to focus their efforts and money on 12 additional constituencies, including Dublin Bay North, Louth, Kildare North and South and Carlow/ Kilkenny.

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