Saturday 20 January 2018

Burton isn't going after Gilmore's job, Labour TDs insist

- Tanaiste plays down rift reports
- Colleagues say tensions are high

Joan Burton, Minister for Social Protection
Joan Burton, Minister for Social Protection
Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore

Michael Brennan Deputy Political Editor

LABOUR TDs do not believe Social Protection Minister Joan Burton will challenge Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore for his job – despite the political tensions between them.

Mr Gilmore has attempted to play down reports of their differences – and the two are jointly due to launch Labour's Seanad abolition campaign today.

Labour TDs agree with Mr Gilmore's assessment that there is no leadership challenge being planned against him.

They say that Ms Burton has never clashed with Mr Gilmore at Labour parliamentary party meetings and has made no attempt to canvass people for their support in any leadership challenge.

However, one Labour TD said that the tension between Ms Burton and Mr Gilmore dated back to the time he won the party leadership unopposed.

"Joan Burton wanted the leadership of the Labour party in 2007, but the parliamentary party rallied around Eamon Gilmore and she has never forgiven him," the TD said.

Another Labour TD said that there had never been a leadership heave in the party in recent history, with Ruairi Quinn, Pat Rabbitte and Dick Spring all resigning.

The TD questioned what difference it would make, given the electoral defeat experienced by Labour leader Kevin Rudd after he ousted his rival Julia Gillard.

"Look at what happened to the Australian Labour party. What will help Labour at the next election is good local organisation and growth in the economy," the TD said.

Mr Gilmore dismissed reports of a rift between himself and Ms Burton, saying that he had a "very good" working, political and personal relationship with her. He told RTE's 'Today with Sean O'Rourke' show that he felt everyone in the party should be aiming to be the party leader.

"There is always speculation about who's getting on with who, who's arguing with who. There is a kind of soap opera dimension that goes on around the edges of politics," he said.

A spokesman for Ms Burton said that she was continuing to work closely with Mr Gilmore and fellow cabinet ministers on the vital issues of returning the economy to full health and exiting the bailout programme.

During the 45-minute interview, Mr Gilmore said that his party still believed the Budget adjustment target should be less than the current €3.1bn target. He said there should be no extra cuts in public spending and new taxes just for the sake of doing it.

A Labour party source said it was satisfied with his performance as he faced a range of difficult questions from Mr O'Rourke about broken election promises and the prospect of a Labour wipe-out.

"Sean O'Rourke threw the kitchen sink at him. But he went toe-to-toe with him for 45 minutes and he didn't shirk any of the questions," the source said.

Irish Independent

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