Quinn and Rabbitte fail to show up for celebrations
OUTGOING cabinet ministers Ruairi Quinn and Pat Rabbitte were notable absentees as Joan Burton was declared Tanaiste and the first female leader of the Labour Party.
Ms Burton said she felt "a profound sense of responsibility" to the country after she defeated junior Health Minister Alex White following a four-week leadership battle.
The Social Protection Minister's victory became clear as soon as the first boxes were opened in the count centre in Dublin's Mansion House shortly after 12.30pm.
The Dublin West TD secured almost 78pc of the vote following a contest in which over 2,700 Labour members cast postal ballots.
Speaking at a press conference last night, Ms Burton said the Coalition had governed "perhaps too much with the head and not enough with the heart".
She indicated that TDs and councillors who quit the party since it entered power were welcome to reapply but added that they must show full support to Labour in Government.
Ms Burton said she now wanted to build the type of recovery that "provides a world of opportunity for every child" in the country, "a social and economic recovery," she added.
Former Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore and Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin were both present as Ms Burton was declared leader by returning officer and Labour councillor Richard Humphreys.
However, she was forced to address the absence of outgoing ministers Ruairi Quinn and Pat Rabbitte.
Ms Burton joked that the two veteran politicians were "with us in spirit", adding that Mr Rabbitte phoned her at lunchtime to congratulate her.
"Ruairi and I had a long conversation during the week and he offered me every support," she said.
"I spoke to Pat at lunchtime today and he gave me every congratulations. I am sure they are here in spirit."
Mr Quinn quit as minister on Wednesday.
Mr Rabbitte is expected to be sacked despite making a desperate plea to be kept on as Communications Minister this week.
Meanwhile, members of the Labour Parliamentary Party last night welcomed Ms Burton's victory.
Carlow/Kilkenny TD Ann Phelan, who nominated Ms Burton, said the party now needed to "land a knockout punch" to regain the public trust.
She said that Ms Burton must ensure Labour displayed more clout in Coalition with Fine Gael if it was to avoid another disastrous election.
Junior Foreign Affairs Minister Joe Costello said that Ms Burton and deputy leader Alan Kelly must show that Labour "is not just in the business of managing the economy".
"Labour needs to show that we are in the business of managing our society.
" And I think the new leadership will be at the fore of doing this," he told the Irish Independent.
Dublin Mid-West TD Joanna Tuffy said the fact Ms Burton was the first female leader of the party was "very significant".