Globetrotting Gilmore faces crucial test of strength
TANAISTE Eamon Gilmore made almost 40 official trips abroad this year -- while fending off pressures from within his party to leave the Department of Foreign Affairs.
The Labour leader is facing the most critical six months of his leadership as the party braces itself to lose dozens of councillors as well as its two European parliament seats in next summer's elections.
Labour sources insist Mr Gilmore's "strong leadership skills" have not been conveyed to the public due to his overseas travel. However, Mr Gilmore has strongly defended his role abroad, which he said was essential for building Ireland's trade links.
The Irish Independent obtained a copy of his foreign itinerary for 2013, which saw Mr Gilmore visit locations such as Santiago, Chile, Atlanta in the US and Kiev, Ukraine. His busiest period was July and August, when he visited Strasbourg, Washington, Brussels, Beijing and Shanghai.
In April, he visited Istanbul and Ankara as part of an Enterprise Ireland trade mission. Just days previously, he travelled to Atlanta, New Orleans and Washington as part of the St Patrick's Day trade delegations.
Of the 39 trips supplied by his department, nine are listed as being made for trade purposes.
The majority of Mr Gilmore's travel related to Ireland's EU presidency during the first half of 2013. In total, he made 17 trips to Brussels for discussions.
A senior government source has insisted that it will be "completely up to Eamon" if he wants to change portfolios.
"The Taoiseach will leave that decision to him. If he wants a move, I'm sure he'll get it," the source added.