SOCIAL Protection Minister Joan Burton says Eamon Gilmore has her "full support" as Labour Party leader.
Simmering tensions between the two politicians have escalated in recent weeks because of Ms Burton's insistence on fudging questions relating to her backing for Mr Gilmore as leader.
However, when pressed yesterday while out canvassing on the Seanad campaign at the Roselawn Shopping Centre in Blanchardstown, she conceded he had her "full support".
"He gave a very strong commitment when we had the away day of the parliamentary party down in Enfield and I'm very, very confident that he will continue to lead the Labour Party, and that he has the full support of all the members of the parliamentary party, including myself."
Referring to the upcoming Budget, she said she had been speaking to pensioners in Croke Park, where she expressed confidence core weekly social welfare rates would be protected, particularly for those on contributory and non-contributory retirement pensions.
"The other favourite question that people put to me is whether or not their bus pass is safe – I think I can safely say that as well,'' she said.
"We do, though, have to find savings. I know in my own department we have very tight control on expenditure and I think we are pretty much on budget,'' she added.
The minister stressed that positive VAT returns, and other indicators ranging from the favourable summer weather to car sales, would help the Government's overall budgetary position.