Saturday 17 March 2018

Burton rejects call to step down at turbulent meeting

Labour Party leader and Tánaiste Joan Burton talking to the media after a party meeting at the Citywest Hotel in Dublin yesterday. Photo: Sam Boal
Labour Party leader and Tánaiste Joan Burton talking to the media after a party meeting at the Citywest Hotel in Dublin yesterday. Photo: Sam Boal
Acting Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin. Photo: Tom Burke

Niall O'Connor and Cormac McQuinn

Joan Burton has resisted angry calls to resign as Labour Party leader at a heated meeting which saw one of the party's senior TDs storm out.

Ms Burton and the party's deputy leader, Alan Kelly, were strongly criticised for their leadership and were called upon to step aside.

During a meeting which lasted almost six hours, unsuccessful Labour candidates rounded on Ms Burton in particular for her role in the party's disastrous election result.

With just seven TDs, Labour suffered one of its worst defeats in the party's history.

But after hours of criticism at the Citywest in Dublin, Ms Burton said she would wait until after the next Government was formed before announcing her intentions about her future as leader.

Sources said this caused "frustration" among many present, after calls for her to resign had continued throughout the meeting.

The acting Tánaiste defended her leadership and criticised several senior Fine Gael figures for Labour's election meltdown.It was claimed at the meeting that Ms Burton had developed a poor relationship with her predecessor, Eamon Gilmore, and that this was deeply unhelpful.

Mr Kelly's role was also criticised, with one source saying "there wasn't much warmth or love in the room" for either him or Ms Burton.

Particular criticism was levelled at Ms Burton by Labour's former whip, Emmet Stagg, and defeated TDs Anne Ferris, Michael McCarthy and Ciarán Lynch.

Mr Lynch spoke publicly outside the meeting, saying: "I believe it's a time to rebuild [the party] and I believe that a new leadership is required in that regard."

Meanwhile, sources present said that Cork East TD Sean Sherlock, who is being tipped to succeed Ms Burton as leader, walked out during her contribution.

Dublin West TD Ms Burton was strongly defended by Senator Mairia Cahill, however.

There were calls for Brendan Howlin, the Acting Public Expenditure Minister, to replace Ms Burton as leader as a consensus candidate to avoid a "long, drawn-out, factious leadership contest".

Another source said that there was a sense of "inevitability" about Mr Howlin assuming the leadership, adding: "If I was a betting person, I'd put money on that."

Prior to the meeting, Labour senator Mary Moran said there was a "total lack of communication" and that she had not been contacted for five weeks by anyone in the party.

A number of sources accused Ms Burton of being "in denial" in relation to her leadership, with one saying: "It was like being at a funeral where the chief mourner didn't know the person was dead."

Irish Independent

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