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Labour rift ahead of leader vote

A MAJOR rift emerged yesterday in the senior ranks of the Labour Party as chairman Willie Penrose appeared to attack likely candidates Tommy Broughan TD and Brendan Howlin TD over their behaviour in the wake of the general election.

Both Howlin and Broughan were opposed to the 'Mullingar Accord' which aligned the party to going into government with Fine Gael.

Penrose, TD for Longford-Westmeath, ruled himself out of both the leadership and deputy leadership races for "family reasons" and said he is looking for a candidate to re-espouse Labour's traditional left-wing traditions.

Speaking yesterday Mr Penrose said "I will be looking for loyalty. I opposed the strategy in 2002 and I didn't snipe from the corner of my mouth, like some people. I kept my mouth shut. I am fiercely loyal and, whoever I back, it will be a core quality."

Neither Tommy Broughan nor Brendan Howlin made any response to Mr Penrose's comments.

The Sunday Independent contacted all the likely candidates. Sources close to Eamon Gilmore indicated that he will definitely run although the current favourite said nothing other than he is still "considering his options".

Jan O'Sullivan was meeting close advisors and supporters yesterday and is expected to publicly announce her candidacy as early as Tuesday.

Joan Burton is also likely to make her position known ahead of the National Executive Committee meeting next weekend.

Acting party leader Liz McManus said yesterday said she was made aware of Pat Rabbitte's intention several days before his announcement on Thursday.

In terms of her own position she said she will make a decision after next Saturday's National Executive Council meeting.

Elsewhere, Mr Rabbitte's former chef de cabinet Adrian Langan has claimed that in the end it was the Labour Party which ended up as the biggest victim of the whole 'Bertiegate' issue which took up most of the general election campaign.

The former advisor to the Labour Party leader ultimately believes his party's election strategy was "collapsed by the weight" of controversy over Mr Ahern's finances and the obsession of "the media village" with the story.

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