Sunday 4 December 2016

Joan Burton expected to announce she will step down as Labour party leader

Niall O'Connor and Cormac McQuinn

Published 01/04/2016 | 02:30

Acting Tánaiste Joan Burton. Photo: Mark Condren
Acting Tánaiste Joan Burton. Photo: Mark Condren

Acting Tánaiste Joan Burton is expected to announce that she will step down as Labour Party leader but remain on as a TD, once a new government has been formed.

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Ms Burton is said to have been taken aback by the scale of the anger directed at her during a special party meeting in Dublin on Wednesday.

Several Labour figures were deeply hostile to both Ms Burton and deputy leader Alan Kelly, who apologised for his statement in an interview with the 'Sunday Independent' during the election campaign that "power is a drug".

Now party sources say they expect a total change of leadership in the coming months and are insisting that Ms Burton's position is no longer tenable.

As revealed by the Irish Independent yesterday, outgoing junior minister Seán Sherlock stormed out of the meeting during Ms Burton's contribution.

Sources said last night that Mr Sherlock, who is among the frontrunners to succeed Ms Burton as leader, was deeply frustrated with the manner in which Labour's election post mortem was being conducted.

A senior source within the party said they believed that Ms Burton will announce her decision to step down after a government has been formed.

Anger

One of the reasons behind the delay is the speculation that another election is imminent.

Under Labour's constitution, the party must hold a leadership contest within six months of an election if the party opts to go into opposition.

As this outcome now appears inevitable, delegates will vote in a leadership contest by August at the latest.

Meanwhile, the chairman of the Labour Parliamentary Party, Willie Penrose, has said he no longer believes that the party requires a deputy leader.

However, he insisted that the remark was not designed as a swipe at Mr Kelly but instead was merely reflective of the fact that the party now only has seven TDs.

In relation to Ms Burton, Mr Penrose said he believed that the Dublin West TD would act in the best interests of the party in giving a clear indication of her willingness to step down.

"She will listen carefully and reflect on the views of the party," the Longford/Westmeath TD told RTÉ radio.

"At the end of the day, we suffered the impact of policies on the kitchen table. People are concerned about having enough money to pay bills, to pay the mortgage.

"Labour has always been to the forefront in advocating social issues and causes.

"The Marriage Equality Referendum would not have happened without Labour.

"But at the end of the day, we were linked too much to the outgoing Government," Mr Penrose added.

Irish Independent

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