Thursday 22 February 2018

Gilmore to quit as Labour leader

Eamon Gilmore has announced he is quitting as leader of the Labour Party
Eamon Gilmore has announced he is quitting as leader of the Labour Party
Sinn Fein's Lynn Boylan became the first of Ireland's 11 MEPs elected as counting went on to the early hours

The Tanaiste has announced he is quitting as leader of his party in the wake of disastrous local and European elections.

Eamon Gilmore, the Labour Party chief and Foreign Affairs Minister in the coalition Government, revealed he is resigning after a hammering at the polls and a backbench heave.

Mr Gilmore said he had taken his party into coalition with Fine Gael in 2011 because there was a duty to act during the worst economic crisis in the history of the State.

"I still believe that was the right decision, and I am proud of the progress we have made in achieving those objectives," he said.

"But it was a course which carried a high political risk, and Labour has paid the price for that in the local and European elections. I deeply regret the loss of good public representatives and the defeat of outstanding Labour candidates last Friday."

Mr Gilmore said he will stay on as leader until his successor is appointed before the end of the current Dail parliament term.

Mr Gilmore said he took the decision to resign on Sunday night and informed ministerial colleagues at his offices in the Department of Foreign Affairs, Iveagh House, Dublin as the fallout from the voter humiliation worsened.

Labour took only 50 or 7% of seats on offer in the local government elections.

The wipeout was compounded by the massive success secured by Sinn Fein which trebled representation on councils up and down the country and looked on course to have four MEPs returned on the island of Ireland.

Labour had three MEPs returned in the 2009 Brussels poll, one of whom later resigned from the party and ran as an independent, but none has been returned this time around.

Mr Gilmore said he took the decision to resign before a motion of no confidence was put forward by seven TDs and a senator.

Ciara Conway, Dominic Hannigan, Michael McNamara, Ged Nash, Derek Nolan, Aodhan O Riordan and Arthur Spring, as well as senator John Gilroy, moved against the outgoing leader.

Mr Gilmore had also faced the prospect of being removed as party leader by the influential Central Council.

He will stay on as leader until late June.

Mr Gilmore's successor will have discussions with Taoiseach Enda Kenny over whether he stays on as Foreign Affairs Minister and who takes the role of Tanaiste, the coalition's deputy prime minister.

Mr Gilmore said the party must act on the message sent by the electorate.

"There is work to do, and I intend to be part of it, but I believe that the work of renewing the Party is best done under new leadership," he said.

"As I have said many times, I am immensely proud of the courage shown by those members of the Labour Party who, over the past three years, put their country first. Who recognised that real politics is about finding real solutions, and who put loyalty and country before everything else."

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said he wanted to thank Mr Gilmore for his outstanding service to the country.

"Eamon Gilmore and the Labour Party have been courageous in making the collective decisions that have pulled Ireland back from the brink of economic collapse and put the country on the path towards recovery," Mr Kenny said.

"As Minister for Foreign Affairs, he has also been pivotal to the restoration of Ireland's international reputation, which has been crucial for investor confidence and job creation."

Mr Kenny described his coalition colleague as a man of integrity, courage and conviction.

Social Protection Minister Joan Burton was immediately installed as the favourite for the Labour leadership.

Nominations can be made from Tuesday and the Labour Party parliamentary party will meet on Wednesday ahead of an internal vote among wider party members to select the successor.

Mr Gilmore said he would contest the next general election.

"I have already spoken of the necessity for renewal. The party and the Government must move on to a new phase and look to the future," he said.

"Where we have had successes, we must build on them. Where we have fallen short, we must do better. Where new problems are arising, we must find solutions for them.

"We must, and we will, continue to put the country and the needs of the Irish people first. And in doing so, we must hear, heed and act on the clear message we received last Friday."

Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams rejected claims from the Taoiseach that the unprecedented swing to left-wing candidates was borne out of frustration and nothing more than a protest.

"This is deep-rooted, it's profound, it's a sea change. The landscape here politically has changed," he said.

The party topped the European poll in Dublin, with Lynn Boylan taking a seat while Matt Carthy looked set to win a Brussels seat in the Midlands-North West and Liadh Ni Riada also taking a seat in the South.

The success was further cemented with Martina Anderson to top the poll in Northern Ireland.

Sinn Fein's success comes despite the massive controversy over the arrest of Mr Adams during the election campaign as part of the investigation into the IRA's abduction and murder of Belfast mother-of-10 Jean McConville in 1972.

"The Government dismisses this as a protest vote or, as the Taoiseach claims, a sign of frustration by the electorate. This is wrong," Mr Adams said.

"The Government has been sent a very clear message. They do not have public support for the damaging policies they are implementing.

"The voters have called time on this government. They should change political direction or call a general election."

But it was the junior coalition partners Labour who clearly bore the brunt of voter backlash following years of punishing cutbacks.

High-profile casualties in the Labour drubbing included Lord Mayor of Dublin Oisin Quinn and Lord Mayor of Cork Catherine Clancy, who failed to keep their council seats.

Press Association

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