Gilmore quit ahead of minister's threat to force his hand
Alex White resignation plan spurred leadership heave
Published 27/05/2014 | 02:30
LABOUR Party rebels who tabled a motion of no confidence in Eamon Gilmore, prior to his resignation, have confirmed they had the backing of junior minister Alex White.
Mr White was planning to resign as part of a plot to oust Mr Gilmore from the Labour leadership after the party's local election drubbing, Independent.ie has learned.
But Mr Gilmore pre-empted a revolt by Mr White and a group of TDs in the junior coalition party by announcing his resignation.
A 'Gang of Eight' Labour TDs and senators tabled a motion of 'no confidence' in Mr Gilmore and believed Mr White would publicly support their move to instigate a leadership challenge.
Members of the gang of eight say they were in contact with Mr White over the weekend and he was supportive of their move.
Labour TD Ciara Conway denies Mr White was planning to resign if Mr Gilmore didn't stand down.
"There were conversations over the weekend.
"He was broadly supportive of the motion," she said.
Party colleague Aodhan O Riordain said the group was not in contact with any other Cabinet or junior minister.
"No," he said.
Ms Conway said there was no indication the Tanaiste was going to step down before they tabled their motion of confidence.
Instead, the Tanaiste told his stunned party colleagues he would be stepping down as soon as his replacement is elected.
Mr White who was promoted by Mr Gilmore to a junior ministry less than two years after he became a TD for the first time, is now among the contenders for the party leadership.
Labour deputy leader Joan Burton is the strong favourite to become the next leader of the party.
But she will face a significant challenge in a six-week contest for the leader's post which will run right up to July 4.
The Social Protection Minister is expected to declare her candidacy in the next 48 hours and portray herself as the best placed candidate to "reconnect with the public".
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Brendan Howlin is understood to be "making his mind up" about whether to run, while Mr White and fellow junior ministers Alan Kelly and Sean Sherlock are also very much in the frame.
The position of deputy leader is also up for grabs, but the junior ministers are weighing up whether to go for the leadership to strengthen their claim to get promoted to the Cabinet.
The new leader will be elected by the 5,000 members of the party, who will be individually canvassed by the candidates.
Mr Gilmore dramatically stood down after the party failed to elect any MEPs, lost 80 seats and performed badly in both by-elections as the party's vote collapsed.The Tanaiste was facing open revolt with a motion of no confidence being tabled by both TDs and members of the organisation.
But Mr Gilmore avoided the divisive bloodbath in the party by announcing his resignation yesterday afternoon.
The Tanaiste met with his ministers and senior party figures in the Department of Foreign Affairs yesterday afternoon and announced his decision afterwards.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny was unable to speak with the Tanaiste before his announcement.
Mr Kenny rang Mr Gilmore on the phone but couldn't get through.
Prior to the announcement, seven Labour TDs and a senator tabled a vote of no confidence in Mr Gilmore. His position appeared increasingly untenable as the party reels from its electoral bloodbath.
But Mr Gilmore said he had decided on Sunday night to stand down and informed Labour headquarters yesterday morning to allow the party to begin preparations.
The motion was tabled by TDs Ciara Conway, Dominic Hannigan, Michael McNamara, Ged Nash, Derek Nolan, Aodhan O Riordain and Arthur Spring, as well as Senator John Gilroy.
The motion read: "The Parliamentary Labour Party does not retain confidence in the party leader."
He also faced the prospect of being removed as party leader by the Central Council.
Mr Gilmore said he "agonised" over the decision to step down, which was made just hours before eight members of the Labour parliamentary party tabled a vote of no confidence.
A new Labour leader will be put in place on July 4 following a postal ballot of all party members.
Mr Gilmore became emotional as he announced his decision at 4.10pm this afternoon, flanked by his entire frontbench, including Ms Burton.
"At 10.30am this morning I informed the General Secretary of the Labour Party I intended to stand down as leader of the Labour Party," he said.
"I've had the honour and privilege to lead the Labour Party for seven years.
"I asked the party to take on responsibility of government. I believed as citizens and a party we had a responsibility to put the country first.
"I still believe that was the right the decision, and I'm proud of the progress we have made."
Mr Gilmore said he made the decision last night to step down in consultation with his family. He also added he intended to contest the next general election.
"It was a course which carried a high political risk," he said, adding Labour had paid the price in the local and European elections.
"The party, and the Government, must move on. We must, and we will, continue to put the country and the needs of the people first.
Labour rebels believe Mr Gilmore's resignation was forced by their move.
The motion of no confidence was sent out at 12.30pm, with several members stating that they at this point believed Mr White would threaten to resign as junior health minister at 3pm.
"It was Alex's support that fuelled our motion. While we don't all want him as leader, to have him on our side in taking out Gilmore was crucial," said one member present at the meeting.