Thursday 13 December 2018

Howlin vows to continue as Labour leader

The Labour leader insisted the party’s road to recovery was a ‘slow build’.

Brendan Howlin said the goal of 14 seats was realistic (Brian Lawless/PA)
Brendan Howlin said the goal of 14 seats was realistic (Brian Lawless/PA)

By David Young, Press Association

Brendan Howlin has vowed to stay put as Labour leader, insisting the party’s recovery is a “slow build”.

Mr Howlin said robust questioning he faced from colleagues at the party’s “think-in” on Sunday evening was normal and healthy.

“We are not a party where people are bussed in to act as clapometers for the leader,” he said.

On the second day of the internal gathering in Drogheda, Mr Howlin said the party was on course to double its current seven Dail seats in the next general election.

Labour suffered an electoral meltdown in 2016, losing 30 seats as voters passed a damning judgment on its time as Fine Gael’s junior government coalition partner.

In an interview with RTE, Mr Howlin rejected any suggestion the party, which is sitting at around 6% in opinion polls, could face wipe-out in the next poll.

“We went into government in the most difficult of circumstances and we explained that to people in 2011 and the Labour Party has always put the country first, others have put party first,” he said.

The party leader said the goal of 14 seats was realistic.

I think that’s absolutely achievable – our build is a slow build Brendan Howlin

“I think that’s absolutely achievable – our build is a slow build,” he said.

“I never believed, I said it from day one, that it would suddenly be transformative because we have to win back people who are thinking they want the sort of Ireland that the Labour Party stands for.”

Mr Howlin was critical of Fine Gael and Fianna Fail’s plans to address Ireland’s housing problems, but said he did not support those demonstrators venting their frustration by occupying derelict properties.

“It’s a manifestation of a terrible wrong, I don’t think it’s a solution,” he said.

“I don’t think it is something I would be associated with, I don’t think the Labour Party would go down that route.

“I understand the motivation of it, but it’s not the solution. The Labour Party is about providing solutions, not protest.”

Asked of the potential for joining forces with the Greens and Social Democrats to re-enter government as a part of a coalition of the left, Mr Howlin suggested the party might currently be more effective from the opposition benches.

“We obviously have a free hand in opposition,” he said, explaining that his party was not wedded to a coalition partner that does not share its view point.

“Fianna Fail and Fine Gael are parties that fundamentally agree with the market solving problems, we believe in the state solving problems for ordinary people.”

Press Association

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