Sunday 25 September 2016

Labour hopeful Gilmore waits for last moment to make his bid

Senan Molony Political Correspondent

Published 14/09/2002 | 00:11

EAMON Gilmore will this weekend complete his plans to become the fourth leadership contender in the Labour party contest.

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Mr Gilmore intends to declare his candidacy closer to the close of nominations on Wednesday. A nascent campaign team is already taking shape.

Yesterday the early frontrunner, deputy leader Brendan Howlin, went on radio to explain why he had spoken out to a newspaper to scotch rumours of his sexual orientation.

He said his dilemma had been that he didn't regard a person's private life as important, but he had dealt with the question posed by a journalist. He now wanted to get on and set out his stall in regard to how he hoped to lead and develop the party.

Roisin Shortall of Dublin North West, the only woman in the field, said on radio yesterday that she was "glad the matter had been dealt with."

Pat Rabbitte, also seeking the helm, is reported to have allied himself with Willie Penrose, who could seek the deputy leadership. There is only one declared candidate in this secondary contest thus far with Joan Burton of Dublin West declaring her bid.

Speculation continues that Wicklow TD Liz McManus could also seek the Number Two position, possibly in tandem with Mr Gilmore's expected declaration.

Mr Rabbitte meanwhile criticised Government invitations of expressions of interest in advertisements for private developers of the National Stadium.

He suggested the adverts on the Bertie Bowl were "deliberately crafted to leave open the prospect of the State gifting 500 acres of land in State ownership to whomsoever is willing to erect a national stadium.

"Is it proposed that we donate around 480 acres of State land in a prime location five miles from the city centre and beside the M50 to Bertie Ahern's friends?" Mr Rabbitt asked.

Brendan Howlin spoke about his decision to go public to dismiss rumours that he was gay. He said he decided to answer a journalist's direct question about his sexuality following years of rumours about his private life.

He also revealed how the day after he announced his leadership candidacy, he started receiving hate mail accusing him of being gay. One letter even contained white powder that he was supposed to believe was anthrax.

Mr Howlin said somebody's sexuality did not matter "a whit." "I know we live in a bubble and sometimes the vast majority of people have no notion of these insider rumours that can just go on for years. As far as I'm personally concerned my value system - somebody's sexuality doesn't matter a whit. I worked and built within the Labour on the notion of equality."

Explaining why he chose to talk about his sexuality, he said that when he was asked a direct question in a long interview with a reputable journalist whom he respected, he answered it directly.

He said journalists had spoken to people working in the campaign, asking was he going to make a statement. His dilemma was that he did not regard the issue of his sexuality as in any way important.

Mr Howlin also referred to a poster campaign about him in Dublin around the time of a Fianna Fail ard fheis. These posters linked him with somebody he did not think he ever met met in his life.

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