THE Labour leadership is set to reject a request from party chairman and rebel TD Colm Keaveney for an early party conference in the wake of the Meath East by-election disaster.
It has deferred the annual conference to the second half of the year because of the EU presidency. But Mr Keaveney – who lost the party whip after he opposed social welfare cuts in the last Budget – wants the conference brought forward before the Budget in October.
He will table a motion to this effect at the next Labour national executive meeting, which is scheduled for April 18.
It will also be the first executive board meeting since the Meath East by-election drubbing, giving the board the chance to discuss the fallout from the party's disastrous performance.
There are 12 voting members on the board and Mr Keaveney must secure a simple majority to see his motion pass.
But Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore and the party hierarchy will reject the call at a meeting to be held later this month, with a November date for the conference pencilled in instead.
"It'll be November, there's too much stuff going on for it to be before that," a source said, adding: "People will be tied up."
Mr Keaveney said: "I'm not sure where this date of November arose from.
No date has been agreed by the executive and it is the executive that has yet to decide.
"We cannot afford to wait that long to have an engagement with the membership," he said.
"I have been inundated with messages from members since last week looking for a more prompt engagement."
Mr Gilmore, Mr Keaveney, and the party's deputy leader, Joan Burton, are among the 12 members of the body, although Mr Keaveney presides over the meetings.
Holding the conference before the Budget would present a huge headache for Mr Gilmore, as he would face the prospect of rank-and-file members passing motions condemning coalition policy.
But Mr Keaveney will have to stand for election as chairman again at the conference and is likely to face stiff opposition from a candidate backed by the leadership.