Wednesday 24 May 2017

Burton must seize the moment for good of party

New leader of the Labour party Joan Burton is congratulated by former leader Eamon Gilmore at the Mansion House in Dublin. PA
New leader of the Labour party Joan Burton is congratulated by former leader Eamon Gilmore at the Mansion House in Dublin. PA

SO, after a lifetime as a Labour Party activist, Joan Burton has become the first female leader of one of the original founding political parties in the State. First elected to Dail Eireann in the so-called 'Spring Tide' of 1992, she is a seasoned political campaigner, and once Eamon Gilmore had announced his resignation in the wake of the party's performance in the local and EU elections, it was never really in doubt that she would be his successor.

But these are worrying times for Labour – synonymous with austerity, hounded in its traditional base by Sinn Fein and with an ageing profile. It is no time to assume leadership for leadership's sake.

As Labour leader, Joan Burton must perform a delicate balancing act between trying to revive the fortunes of a party which is demoralised, has seldom been lower in opinion polls and is about to lose three senior members. All this along with the duty it has to continue with the revival of the country's battered economy and get more people back to work. The signs are good, but it is vital any re-negotiation of the Programme for Government enhances rather than damages the credibility of Ireland, so hard won over the last five years of austerity Budgets.

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