Penrose: Labour should appoint new leader without a vote
Labour Party chairman Willie Penrose has intervened in the row over the party leadership, insisting that Joan Burton's successor should be appointed without the need for an internal election.
LABOUR Party chairman Willie Penrose has intervened in the row over the party leadership, insisting that Joan Burton's successor should be appointed without the need for an internal election.
Mr Penrose last night said a leadership contest could cause unnecessary damage to the party, as he called on all Labour TDs to unite behind one candidate.
Both Brendan Howlin and Alan Kelly are interested in replacing Ms Burton as leader and have already begun seeking the support of colleagues.
Ms Burton is expected to announce her intention to step down - possibly as early as this week, despite a 'Sunday Independent' opinion poll yesterday showing the majority of Labour supporters believe she should stay on as leader.
With Cork East TD Sean Sherlock backing Mr Howlin's bid, Mr Kelly is the only other likely contender for the leadership. The Tipperary TD will require the support of at least one other Labour TD in order to trigger a contest.
But speaking to the Irish Independent last night, Mr Penrose said the party must focus on becoming a "constructive force" in opposition, adding that a leadership contest would prove to be a distraction.
"The focus needs to be on rebuilding the party following the election. I believe the leadership contest should therefore be uncontested," the Longford-Westmeath TD said.
Mr Penrose's intervention will be seen as a blow to Mr Kelly and comes after several former TDs also called for Mr Howlin to take charge of the party uncontested in the interim.
The issue of the leadership is expected to be discussed at Labour's parliamentary party meeting on Wednesday.
There are deep tensions within the party following a meeting in City West last Wednesday, during which Ms Burton's leadership came under attack. Afterwards, Ms Burton is believed to have told colleagues she felt "set up" by Mr Howlin.
The Wexford TD sat back for most of the meeting as members queued up to criticise the party leadership.