Eamon Gilmore told to quit Foreign Affairs over election meltdown
Labour chairman says Gilmore must change job as crisis conference called
LABOUR has hit the panic button ahead of Friday's elections with ministers and TDs now accepting it is facing wipeout at the polls.
An emergency conference of TDs and grassroots members is to be called immediately after the vote, to assess the party's role in Government.
And in a stark admission, the Labour chairman has told the Irish Independent it is now "without question" that Eamon Gilmore will have to move out of Foreign Affairs.
Over the final days of canvassing this week, ministers are set to target Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein in a series of last-minute swipes aimed at reclaiming some ground on their main rivals.
But party sources also admit that it is now "every man and woman for themselves" on Mr Gilmore's sinking ship.
Labour is floundering at just 6pc in terms of party support and has been unable to gather momentum during the course of the campaign, the latest Irish Independent/ Millward Brown opinion poll showed.
It has now made a conscious decision to target Fianna Fail, believing that floating voters veering back towards Micheal Martin's party can still be swayed.
But last night, Labour chairman Jack Wall said that an emergency conference would have to be called if the party faced a disastrous election.
"There will be a strong need for a full reflection of where we are as a party. If that requires a special convention or conference to discuss our role in Government, then so be it," he said.
He added that Mr Gilmore would need to find "a ministerial post of significance" in the upcoming reshuffle.
"It must be a domestic position of an economic nature," the party chairman said.
Mr Wall insisted, however, that he believes Labour can hold on to its Dublin seat in the European elections through Emer Costello.
For that to happen she will have to beat the Fianna Fail candidate Mary FitzPatrick, the Green Party's Eamon Ryan, and former Labour MEP Nessa Childers.
Another well-placed Labour source said the party had to show unity in the face of a very challenging final few days of campaigning.
"We don't want anybody doing a 'Phil Prendergast' on it," the source said – in a reference to the party's Euro candidate, who has said Mr Gilmore must quit as party leader.
Wicklow TD Anne Ferris admitted she was very "concerned" and "disappointed" by Labour's showing in the polls.
"We are out there trying to win seats, and we will do what we can – but we are realistic," she said. "We know we are going to lose seats, because it is what happens to the smaller party in mid-term elections."
Separately, another senior Labour TD, who is considered a loyal supporter of Mr Gilmore, said the time had come to discuss the party's leadership.
"Once the weekend is over we are into local election footing, and it will be every man and woman for themselves," the source said.
"If we sustain huge losses, I don't think Eamon can lead us into the general election," the source added.
In a clear swipe at Fianna Fail, Ms Costello issued a statement yesterday saying it was a clear race between "those who wrecked the economy and those who are fixing it".
Social Protection Minister Joan Burton set Sinn Fein in her sights, accusing it of "fantasy politics".
"We also have parties, particularly Sinn Fein and the ultra-left parties, essentially saying that you can decrease taxation, spend more on services, raise public service salaries all in one go", she told reporters.
Ms Burton described the result of opinion polls as "challenging", but insisted Labour had credible candidates to take votes on Friday.
Mr Gilmore was yesterday asked if he would consider his position if the election went as badly as predicted.
The Tanaiste said: "I think we know from our own experience polls don't predict elections.
"I remember standing answering questions the weekend before the presidential election and the outcome of the election was very different," he added. "What we do know at this stage is that a large number of people have to make up their minds."
Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte said if all those criticising Labour now had voted for it in the last general election, the party would have several overall majorities.
"In 2011, we got more than 19pc of the vote – 81pc of people didn't vote for us but we're taking 81pc of the criticism," he said.
This view was echoed by Education Minister Ruairi Quinn, who said the most Labour ever got in an election was 20pc.
"Yet we're expected to fix the country, after other people broke it," he said.