Sunday 4 December 2016

Labour minister: Our support for Kenny not a foregone conclusion

Niall O'Connor and Cormac McQuinn

Published 08/03/2016 | 02:30

Despite Ms Burton’s public backing for Mr Kenny, Mr Sherlock last night said no decision would be taken until after the parliamentary party meets tomorrow.
Despite Ms Burton’s public backing for Mr Kenny, Mr Sherlock last night said no decision would be taken until after the parliamentary party meets tomorrow.

A Labour Party minister has insisted his party's support for Enda Kenny as Taoiseach is not a foregone conclusion.

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Junior Trade Minister and Cork East TD Séan Sherlock last night said the party would "collectively" decide on whether to back Mr Kenny during Thursday's vote amid growing calls from members to abstain.

Tánaiste Joan Burton caused major disquiet within the party after she endorsed Mr Kenny for Taoiseach just hours after Labour's disastrous election result.

Several TDs have been inundated by Labour members urging the party to abstain rather than back the Fine Gael leader.

Despite Ms Burton's public backing for Mr Kenny, Mr Sherlock last night said no decision would be taken until after the parliamentary party meets tomorrow.

"That will be a collective decision. Any pronouncement in advance of the meeting is purely speculative," Mr Sherlock told the Irish Independent.

"There has to be a broad discussion involving all members of the PLP (Parliamentary Labour Party) ahead of Thursday. Where Labour sits within the Dáil firmament will be discussed thereafter," he added.

At a meeting of the Labour general council on Saturday, a number of delegates called on the party to instead abstain from Thursday's vote.

Such calls, which contradict the remarks by Ms Burton, were made by representatives from both the Limerick city and Dublin Fingal branches.

Both branches saw their TDs in Jan O'Sullivan and Brendan Ryan returned.

It's understood Mr Ryan in particular has been urged by Labour members in his constituency to push for an abstention.

However, Ms Burton is likely to be backed at the meeting by Dáil colleagues Brendan Howlin, Alan Kelly and Willie Penrose.

"We will back Enda Kenny on Thursday and then all bets are off," Mr Penrose said.

Communications Minister Alex White, who will not be present for the vote as he lost his Dáil seat, said their support of Mr Kenny would be "effectively the last act of this election" and "largely symbolic".

He also singled out Labour's deputy leader Alan Kelly for criticism, saying he expects him to come forward with an analysis of the campaign.

He described comments made by Mr Kelly about power being "a drug" in an interview with the 'Sunday Independent' as "ridiculous".

"I think that leadership calls for a sense of judgment, the impact of what you say on other people.

"A leader always has to look around the corner at what is going to happen next, they are qualities you look for in any leader," Mr White said.

The remarks were made as a leading Labour senator backed Ms Burton to remain as leader.

Ivana Bacik said the "last thing" the party needed was a "divisive and damaging" leadership contest. "In Labour we're a very democratic party - we tended to perhaps wash dirty linen in public so I think we've suffered such a massive electoral blow in this election that I would personally favour Joan staying on," Ms Bacik added.

Irish Independent

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