Friday 27 April 2018

Siptu boss tells Labour to resolve leader crisis and do deal with FG

Jack O’Connor at Leinster House yesterday. Photo: Tom Burke
Jack O’Connor at Leinster House yesterday. Photo: Tom Burke
Philip Ryan

Philip Ryan

SIPTU President Jack O'Connor has urged Labour to quickly resolve the issue around the party's leadership as speculation mounts over acting Tánaiste Joan Burton's future.

During a private meeting in Leinster House, Mr O'Connor also told Labour officials the party should seek commitments on pay and investment in public service in return for supporting a Fine Gael-led minority government from the opposition.

The union chief was invited to the meeting by an election committee established by the Labour national executive to give his views on the party's disastrous general election campaign.

He was strongly critical of Labour's failure to tackle the public perception that the party broke its promises to the electorate when it went into coalition with Fine Gael.

Speaking to the Irish Independent after the meeting, Mr O'Connor said "clarity and decisiveness" is needed on the position of the Labour Party leader. "I think we should sort the matter out quickly," he added.

However, he said he did not have a preferred option for who should be the next leader.

There has been speculation Ms Burton will contest the next Labour leadership battle after the next government is formed.

One senior Labour figure last night said there was "touch of the Marie Antoinettes" about suggestions Ms Burton would continue as leader.

However, sources close to the Labour Party leader played down suggestions she would seek to remain in place.

Ms Burton has continually said she will make a decision on her political future once government talks conclude.

Ms Burton, deputy Labour leader Alan Kelly and acting Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin met with Taoiseach Enda Kenny and acting Finance Minister Michael Noonan on Tuesday night to discuss government formation.

Speaking to Labour's election review committee, Mr O'Connor said the party should seek commitments on pay, housing and public services in return for supporting a Fine Gael minority government from the opposition benches.

"They are there to protect working people in civil society and they should see what, if anything, they can do," he said.

He was also critical of the party's communication and messaging while in government.

"I think they were so focused on trying to get through the crisis and trying to get the people of Ireland through the crisis that they didn't develop a narrative for explaining the reality of the situation and the choices they were facing as a minority party outnumbered two-to-one by the most conservative party potentially in the history of the State," he said.

Labour's election committee is comprised of Galway senator Lorraine Higgins, party chairperson Lorraine Mulligan, councillor Martina Genockey, former TD Mary Upton and former Tasc chairman John Fanning.

A meeting of all Labour members is due to be held in the coming weeks where the future of the party will be discussed.

Irish Independent

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