Saturday 1 October 2016

Burton may lose leadership as price of new coalition

Philip Ryan and Barry Lennon

Published 19/04/2016 | 02:30

There are fears within Labour that re-entering coalition with Fine Gael will result in Ms Burton holding on to the leadership. Photo: Steve Humphreys
There are fears within Labour that re-entering coalition with Fine Gael will result in Ms Burton holding on to the leadership. Photo: Steve Humphreys

Labour leader Joan Burton may be asked to step down if she pushes ahead with plans to return the party to government alongside Fine Gael.

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There are fears within Labour that re-entering coalition with Fine Gael will result in Ms Burton holding on to the leadership. Labour rules mean that despite the disastrous election result, she would not be forced into a leadership contest if the party returned to government.

Yesterday, a senior Labour figure told the Irish Independent they believed that Ms Burton was seeking to remain in power. The parliamentary party source said that if Labour went into government the party would be "further damaged" by the current leadership.

"She is playing to put us back into government and playing to remain leader," the source said.

"I would find it very difficult to support a scenario that would see us go back into government short of a change of leadership.

"There would have to be a complete different composition of leadership."

After the party won just seven seats at the General Election, Ms Burton said she would not go into government, preferring to rebuild in opposition.

This has now changed following approaches from Fine Gael, which is anxious to have the support of Labour in the next government.

However, Taoiseach Enda Kenny is expected to put pressure on Ms Burton to reach a decision in the coming days.

Senior Fine Gael figures said they were not prepared to "wait weeks" for Labour to make a decision on entering government again.

However, any move towards entering government will have to be put to the Labour membership and there are doubts within the party over whether members would pass a motion aimed at returning to power with Fine Gael.

Split

There is also a split emerging among former and current Labour TDs after it emerged the party opened talks with Fine Gael. Longford Westmeath TD Willie Penrose said that it was too early to discuss Labour's position when Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael had not agreed on how a minority government would work.

"It is presumptuous to ask questions before a Fine Gael/Fianna Fáil agreement," he said.

Mr Penrose said if Labour was to support Fine Gael, even from opposition, it would need a number of commitments, including a referendum on the privatisation of Irish Water.

Labour Seanad candidate Kevin Humphreys also said he wanted to see the agreement by the two biggest parties before he would make a decision.

But Kildare South TD Jack Wall said there should be "just reward for those who stuck with government". He added: "I was in opposition for a long time.

"We can't afford to be acting the mick around the place. There are major things happening concerning hospitals."

Ousted Dublin South-Central TD Michael Conaghan said he would prefer to stay out of government but could see why others wanted to go in.

"The party has been damaged, hopes have been damaged and aspirations have been damaged," he said.

Irish Independent

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