Saturday 1 November 2014

Burton tries to draw line under talk of rift with Gilmore

Michael Brennan Deputy Political Editor

Published 17/09/2013 | 05:00

Joan Burton and Eamon Gilmore at the Labour think-in

SOCIAL Protection Minister Joan Burton has finally given strong public backing to Labour leader Eamon Gilmore – as he vowed to lead the party into the next general election.

The reports of tensions between the two most senior figures in the Labour Party had continued after Ms Burton gave some unconvincing interviews about her "professional political" relationship with Mr Gilmore.

At Labour's think-in event in Meath, Ms Burton confirmed for the first time that she had stored the 'Gilmore for Taoiseach' posters in her garden shed rather than putting them up during the 2011 election campaign. She said there had been an instruction not to put them up until the last week of the campaign.

"By then, the campaign strategy had changed and they were not relevant at that point in time," she said.

It was a bruising reminder for Mr Gilmore of the switch in emphasis made by Labour during the final stage of the campaign. Because of poor poll ratings, the 'Gilmore for Taoiseach' posters were replaced by a series of advertisements promising that Labour would prevent Fine Gael from cutting child benefit and introducing water charges.

These, too, have come back to haunt Labour during subsequent years.

Ms Burton joked that she had not put the 'Gilmore for Taoiseach' posters on a bonfire, saying that she would have been arrested.

She insisted that Mr Gilmore had a key role in attending a public meeting in her Dublin West constituency during the general election campaign.

"There was quite a lot of Eamon in Dublin West, just not on those particular posters."

Ms Burton insisted that she was fully supporting Mr Gilmore when asked if she wanted to become Labour leader.

"I'm happy doing the job that I'm doing, and I'm happy supporting Eamon Gilmore," she said.

Ms Burton said that she had a "very good" relationship with Mr Gilmore, after he had described their relationship as "excellent".

TWIST

But in another twist, the Labour Party 'family photo' at the think-in event had to be delayed because Ms Burton was late arriving to take her seat next to Mr Gilmore.

A Labour Party handler made a valiant attempt to stand in front of the empty chair until she arrived.

Meanwhile, Mr Gilmore insisted that he would lead Labour into the next general election in 2016, and told people not to believe everything they read about the relationship between himself and Ms Burton.

Labour Junior Minister for Innovation Sean Sherlock said he did not believe there was any prospect of Ms Burton challenging Mr Gilmore for the leadership.

"My own personal experience, having attended Labour parliamentary party meetings, is that there are always positive signs and positive body language between the two.

"So I don't see it," he said.

Irish Independent

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