A LABOUR veteran has warned that morale in the party is at an "all-time low" and that women voters are deserting it for the first time in living memory.
Ray Kavanagh, who is currently running for the position of Labour chairperson, also said that Labour members felt there was a great disconnect between them and Labour ministers.
He served as general secretary of Labour for more than 13 years and was a member of President Michael D Higgins's election team two years ago.
He is on the national executive and is highly regarded within the party for his forthright views and long record of service.
His blunt remarks about the state of Labour show the scale of the challenge facing Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore 10 days ahead of the annual conference in Killarney. A Labour spokesman said the party would not be commenting on statements by the candidates in the chairperson election campaign.
In an election video, Mr Kavanagh said he was running because the party was "in a bit of trouble at the moment. It's a pity to have to say but I do believe that morale in the Labour Party is at an all-time low. As chairperson, it is certainly something that I would try to remedy".
Mr Kavanagh noted that the current 9pc rating of Labour in the latest opinion polls would pose serious challenges for Labour councillors running in next May's local elections.
"For me, one of the most worrying factors was that women voters seem to be deserting the Labour Party at the moment. We must address this. This is the first time it has happened in living memory."
About 1,000 Labour delegates attending the annual conference in Killarney in 10 days' time will be entitled to vote in the chairperson election. Mr Kavanagh's rival for the post is the current chair, Lorraine Mulligan, who works as a researcher with SIPTU in Liberty Hall.
She was promoted from vice-chair to chairperson after rebel Labour party chairman Colm Keaveney quit the party during the summer.
So far two Labour TDs – Kevin Humphreys and Robert Dowds – have come out publicly in support of Mr Kavanagh.
Labour sources have said Mr Gilmore would be staying out of the contest to elect a new chairperson and would not be backing either Ms Mulligan or Mr Kavanagh.
Meanwhile, Mr Gilmore has decided to take no action against a Labour junior minister who lobbied a university to change his daughter's work placement.
Junior Minister for Primary Care Alex White sent an email from his Oireachtas account to NUI Galway, where his daughter is a medical student. He wanted to have her one-year work placement switched from Letterkenny General Hospital to Sligo Regional Hospital, but he received no response from NUI Galway to his email.
A spokesman for Mr Gilmore said that Mr White had acknowledged it was a mistake to use his Oireachtas email address in dealing with a family matter.
"As far as the Tanaiste is concerned, that is the end of the matter," he said.
Mr White has said that he sent an email from his Oireachtas account on behalf of his daughter seeking to have her student medical placement switched from Letterkenny to Sligo "for family reasons".